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Protest at Twitter hearing talked over by auctioneering Congressman

Representative Billy Long, a Republican from Missouri, during a House hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, September 5, 2018.

Chaos broke out for a few minutes during Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s testimony Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee when a woman in the gallery began shouting.

As Dorsey was telling Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, that Twitter wouldn’t intentionally write bias into the company’s algorithms for flagging and blocking accounts, a woman shouted her disagreement. 

‘Stop the bias, Jack Dorsey! Please help us, President Donald Trump!’ she said.

The woman appeared to be Laura Loomer, an activist who describes herself as a former ‘operative’ of Project Veritas, a group that has secretly filmed tech workers, reporters and nonprofit workers as part of projects focused on bias in tech and journalism. It has used similar techniques in projects on the practices of abortion providers.

Shortly afterward, Loomer took to Twitter to take credit for the interruption. ‘I did it for the millions of Conservatives who are being silenced by Big tech on social media,’ she tweeted.

Loomer didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

The protest came amid Republicans criticism of Twitter and Facebook for perceived bias against conservative groups. Conservative lawmakers asked Dorsey multiple times about a Twitter algorithm that made some conservative representatives harder to find in the social media company’s search results. Dorsey said the flaw affected 600,000 accounts and was unintentional, and added that Twitter has changed the algorithm.

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The committee’s chair, Rep. Greg Walden, ordered Loomer to sit down or be removed from the room. Loomer continued, and Rep. Billy Long began talking over her shouts with the calls of an auctioneer.

The faux auction lasted a full 40 seconds and appeared to reach a total price of 50. It wasn’t clear what Long was pretending to sell. 

As Loomer was led from the room, Long concluded his auctioneering by saying, ‘Five and a quarter, five and a half, I yield back.’

Laughter and applause erupted in the room.

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