Josh Hawley Urges Elon Musk to Investigate Twitter Employees

Republican Senator Josh Hawley on Wednesday called on Twitter's new owner, Elon Musk, to carry out a comprehensive audit of censorship practices conducted by the social media platform's employees.

Hawley shared a letter on Twitter he said was sent to Musk. In it, he wrote he had previously made "a number of oversight inquiries to the company" during his time in the Senate. The Missouri lawmaker said the letters addressed concerns about moderation policies, viewpoint discrimination, content suppression and the platform's security. Twitter had "effectively ignored these requests," according to Hawley.

On Monday, Twitter announced it had accepted Musk's $44 billion offer to buy the company. Musk said in a statement after the deal was announced that "free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy" and called Twitter a "digital town square." In the past, he has frequently criticized the platform's content moderation, and last week he said Twitter "needs to be transformed as a private company."

Hawley's letter stated the senator's desire for Musk to publicly investigate how past decisions regarding moderation and other issues were conducted.

"In recent years, Twitter has intervened in American discourse with an increasingly heavy hand, attempting to shape the information environment for overtly partisan reasons," Hawley wrote. "Algorithms didn't make those calls; employees did. And at this point, the American people deserve to know the truth about what went on at Twitter for years behind closed doors."

Sen. Josh Hawley
Senator Josh Hawley has called on new Twitter owner Elon Musk to publicly audit the company's employees regarding their past practices. Above, Hawley speaks at the Hart Senate Office Building on March 23. Getty

Various conservative politicians and right-wing figures, including Tucker Carlson, have praised Musk for purchasing Twitter. On Monday, the Fox News host said the deal "could turn out to be a pivot point in our history."

In reaction to the news of Musk's purchase, Hawley tweeted it was "a great day for free speech in America" on Monday. His letter congratulated Musk on acquiring Twitter and noted his hopes regarding the Tesla CEO's intentions.

"Your commitment to free speech is rare in the world of social media,
and I am hopeful you will indeed help Twitter become a platform that values and protects it," the senator wrote.

In his letter, Hawley provided some key points he wants Musk to investigate. Those included finding information about who was behind Twitter "deliberately suppressing" a story from the New York Post on Hunter Biden; how many accounts have been suspended and why; details on "shadowbanned" users; and if Twitter employees had made changes to the platform or deleted records of their time at Twitter since Musk's announced acquisition.

"A public audit like this will prove essential, as you start to rebuild a culture of free speech and open discourse at Twitter, to determining where exactly things went wrong on the platform and who is principally responsible," Hawley's letter said. "No doubt the results will be illuminating for all of us."

Newsweek reached out to Hawley and Musk for comment.