Sen. Hawley Hammers Twitter Over Hack

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), one of Big Tech's big critics, is pressing Twitter on reports that the hack of high-profile accounts was, in part, an inside job. 

He cited a report in Motherboard that a Twitter employee aided and abetted outside hackers--and was paid. 

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In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Hawley asked if the report was true and, if so, when Twitter became aware of that fact. He also asked Dorsey "to explain screenshots seeming to indicate Twitter engages in “shadow banning” users and whether these tools have ever been applied to an elected official." 

It is the second letter from Hawley to Twitter in the last 48 hours. After the hack was reported, he sent a letter asking Twitter to "immediately" cooperate with federal law enforcement investigating the hack and was told by the company that hackers had "targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”  

Instead, he said, according to press reports, it appeared employees may not have been mere victims. 

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He was equally troubled by the screenshots appearing to show "shadowbanning." "One such screenshot indicates that Twitter employs tools allowing it to append 'Search Blacklist,' 'Trends Blacklist,' 'Bounced,' and 'ReadOnly' flags to user accounts. Given your insistence in testimony to Congress that Twitter does not engage in politically biased 'shadowbanning' and the public interest in Twitter’s moderation practices, it is notable that Twitter reportedly suspended user accounts sharing screenshots of this panel." 

Republicans have long argued Silicon Valle has a systemic bias against conservative speech.  

Hawley's letter seeks answers to a bunch of questions, including what the terms “Search Blacklist,” “Trends Blacklist,” “Bounced,” and “ReadOnly" mean and whether such flags on accounts affect the visibility of tweets. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.