Washington, D.C. - In case you missed it, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik questioned journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger about the federal government's involvement in social media censorship surrounding the Hunter Biden laptop scandal at a hearing by the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.


Watch her line of questioning here.


Read a full transcript of her line of questioning below:

Congresswoman Stefanik: It has been almost one year since the first bombshell Twitter Files. Looking back now, and my questions are for Mr. Taibbi and Mr. Shellenberger, what was the most alarming thing that you came across during your review of internal Twitter documents? And I have a number of follow up questions so keep it short. 

Taibbi: Sure, thank you for the question. I think the most alarming thing we saw was the regular stream, organized stream of communication between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the largest tech companies in the country. They had an organized system for flagging content, not occasionally but in enormous numbers involving spreadsheets of accounts that ran to the hundreds and thousands and this was shocking to us and to Congressman [Massie]’s point, this isn't a crazy conspiracy theory. We have already had four federal judges rule that they believe that this activity violates the First Amendment. This is quite serious. We didn’t know whether it was against the law, but we certainly thought it was shocking enough to be in the public interest. That for me was the most serious thing. 

Shellenberger: For me it was seeing the so-called former FBI officials within Twitter and working with other groups including this Aspen Institute participate in an effort to so-call “pre-bunk” the Hunter Biden laptop before it was ever published in the New York Post and then to get it censored by Twitter in violation of Twitter’s own terms of service whose internal staff had concluded that the New York Post tweet had not violated their terms of service and they censored it anyway.

Congresswoman Stefanik: Mr. Shellenberger, I want to ask you further, that revolving door between the FBI and Twitter and I also want to ask about those third party essentially government proxies. You reference the Aspen Institute. Can you delve deeper into both of those questions, both of those topics? 

Shellenberger: Sure. It was the former general counsel of the FBI, Jim Baker, and the Former Deputy Director of the FBI had both taken jobs at Twitter, there were so many FBI people at Twitter that they had their own internal group and their own little crib sheet to describe the difference between the terms they use at the FBI vs at Twitter. The CIA as well had their own little internal group. Sorry, what was the second question? 

Congresswoman Stefanik: The third-party proxies like the Aspen Institute. 

Shellenberger: Oh yeah, well then the Aspen Institute, this was the weirdest thing, we discovered the Aspen Institute created a workshop that was attended by basically all of the major media, as well as all of the major social media platforms, to basically pre-bunk in advance the Hunter Biden laptop even though there was no evidence that it existed outside of the fact that the FBI knew that they had it cause they got it in December 2019. So they have the Aspen Institute trying to persuade people not to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story in August and September of 2020 was quite chilling and disturbing to see. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: These content moderators at social media platforms like Twitter wield an enormous amount of power in terms of determining not only what Americans can say but also what Americans can see. Do you believe, Mr. Taibbi and Mr. Shellenberger, that it's appropriate for unelected bureaucrats or these tech companies to collude to influence what Americans can say or read? 

Shellenberger: Absolutely not. I wanted to stress again that all of this was happening secretively with the blessing of the Department of Homeland security with them sending things– this is from the EIP at Stanford to Twitter and Facebook saying “We repeat our recommendations that this account be suspended, we recommend labeling all instances of this article, we recommend you flag as false this.” All these demands being made, secretly without any public review. My view is that the government doesn’t decide who can speak in the town square, why should the government be deciding who can speak on social media platforms? We the people should decide our own content as adults, legal content, it should not be decided by either government or big tech.

Congresswoman Stefanik: And Mr. Taibbi and Mr. Shellenberger do you believe that this censorship is a form of election interference? 

Shellenberger: Absolutely it is, there’s no question in my mind. 

Congresswoman Stefanik: Mr. Taibbi? 

Taibbi: Yes I think it certainly can be. In the latest story that we did on the CTI league, the over partisanship of the people involved in this operation, that was actually the reason the whistleblower came forward. The people involved, the quote was, they assumed anyone who was smart thought the way they did. They talked about the potential election of Donald Trump being an end of the world event. They talked about the wackadoodles who actually watch FOX News. And even as someone who doesn’t vote for republicans, it was shocking for me to see this. And I think this was a consistent theme of, not just the CTI league, but most of the censorship organizations that we looked at, they all tend to drift in one direction.