Ahead of US elections, Facebook, Twitter restrict controversial Biden article
Social media giants Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday decided to restrict a controversial article on United States Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, inviting criticism from conservatives. The article—published in the New York Post—contained material supposedly extracted from a computer that had been left by Biden's son Hunter at a computer repair shop in April 2019. Conservatives have alleged the actions highlight selective censorship.
Article focused on Biden's alleged links to Ukrainian firm
The New York Post article—titled 'Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad'—implicates Biden, a former US Vice President, in connection with Hunter's Ukraine business. The unnamed owner of the repair shop in Delaware where the computer had supposedly been left had told the publication that he transferred a copy of the hard drive to Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Article cited an April 2015 email to back claims
The article mentioned one email dated April 2015 wherein a Burisma board adviser had thanked Hunter for inviting him to a meeting with Biden in Washington. However, it was not mentioned whether such a meeting was scheduled or if it ever took place.
Twitter blocked users from sharing links to article
On Wednesday, Twitter blocked users from sharing links to the article or photos from it. Users attempting to share it were shown the message: "We can't complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful." Clicking or retweeting a link already posted to Twitter reflected a warning that the "link may be unsafe."
Twitter's actions based on 'origins of materials' listed in article
Twitter later explained its actions saying the restrictions were imposed due to the questionable nature of "the origins of the materials." Twitter's policies prohibit "directly distribut[ing] content obtained through hacking that contains private information." Some of the images contained in the article contained personal and private information, Twitter added. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged that the company's initial communication could have shared more context.
Twitter also locked White House Press Secretary's personal account
Twitter's decision to restrict the article marks the first time that the company has directly limited the spread of information from a news website. Twitter also reportedly locked the personal account of the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday for sharing the article. The firm has been taking steps to implement stricter rules around misinformation ahead of the 2020 US Presidential elections.
Facebook also restricted article over questionable validity
Further, Facebook placed restrictions on linking to the article, alerting users that there were questions about its validity. Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said, "This is part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation."
Trump described Twitter, Facebook's actions as 'terrible'
Twitter's actions drew criticism from conservatives, who accused the social media giants of censorship and shielding Biden. A New York Post editorial called Facebook and Twitter "propaganda machines." Trump also tweeted saying it was "terrible" that the companies "took down" the article and reiterated calls to "repeal Section 230"—which keeps website hosts from being held responsible for the content posted.
Biden carried out official US policy toward Ukraine: Campaign
Meanwhile, Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said, "Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was decried as 'not legitimate' and political by a GOP colleague, have all reached the same conclusion: that Joe Biden carried out official US policy toward Ukraine and engaged in no wrongdoing" "Trump administration officials have attested to these facts under oath."
Biden's schedule shows no such meeting happened: Campaign
The Biden campaign further claimed that the former VP's official schedules from the time have been reviewed and no meeting as alleged by the New York Post ever took place. Others have dismissed the article's veracity owing to Giuliani's record of producing disinformation.