A news story that likely would have been ignored by the mainstream media and quickly disappeared from conversations became a flashpoint this week when social media companies rushed to censor it on their platforms.
The story appeared damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The story, published by the New York Post, included emails showing Biden’s son Hunter allegedly introducing his father, who was at that time Vice President, to a Ukrainian energy executive where Hunter worked – a year before Biden demanded Ukraine fire the country’s top prosecutor who was looking into the company.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone admitted that the social media platform would censor the content until it could be fact checked – acknowledging this is routinely done for certain stories.
“While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform,” Stone said on Twitter. “This is part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation. We temporarily reduce distribution pending fact-checker review.”
Twitter soon followed suit, disabling “potentially harmful” links to the Post story and locking the accounts of anyone who posted it, including the White House press secretary and Trump’s campaign account. It even added a label to a government website. Twitter went further than Facebook, however, when it tried to explain why it had blocked the Post link. This is where blatant double standards came into play. Twitter claimed the Post story violated its Hacked Materials Policy, even though it doesn’t appear as though the emails and photos in the Post story were hacked. Rather, it appears they were discovered on the hard drive of a computer left at a repair shop.
Further, Twitter claimed in an official tweet that its policy “prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization,” claiming the platform doesn’t “want to incentivize hacking by allowing Twitter to be used as distribution for possibly illegally obtained materials.”
Astute readers may recognize that just a few weeks ago, The New York Times illegally obtained President Donald Trump’s tax returns and published a report on them. Twitter did not block links to the article nor did it temporarily ban accounts that distributed the link. The Times may have avoided this by not publishing the documents it obtained, but based on Twitter’s history of bias against conservatives, it seems impossible that the link would have been blocked even if the Times did publish the materials.
As I reported at the time, the Times acknowledged that it received the tax records from sources authorized to view them, but those sources were not authorized to leak them. Doing so is illegal.
The label appended to the GOP’s House Judiciary website – a .gov address – provided four bullet points as to why the link contained a warning. The first three make it appear as though clicking the link would have caused actual harm to users, while the fourth bullet – the one in which the link actually fell – was incredibly vague. The warning claims the link could have been blocked for being “malicious links that could steal personal information or harm electronic devices,” “spammy links that mislead people or disrupt their experience,” or “violent or misleading content that could lead to real-world harm.” The actual category the link fell under said: “certain categories of content that, if posted directly on Twitter, are a violation of the Twitter Rules.”
Twitter later said the censorship of the House GOP website was done “in error,” the same excuse they use whenever right-leaning content is censored. It should be noted that these “errors” always seem to go one way.
When it comes to Twitter’s claims that the information in the Post story was hacked, even the Biden campaign didn’t make such an allegation. The campaign at first claimed Biden’s official schedule showed no nefarious meetings with his son’s employer, but the campaign later admitted that Biden may have had an “informal interaction” with the energy executive.
Media outlets such as Business Insider attempted to discredit the story, claiming it contained “holes and red flags.” This may be the case, but such “holes and red flags” never caused this level of censorship with anti-Trump stories.
Business Insider takes time to denounce how the emails in the Post story were obtained, quoting a professor at Johns Hopkins University claiming that the story behind how the emails were obtained included “highly suspicious behavior.”
“Creative, anonymous, credibility-generating, somewhat plausible. Exactly how a professional would surface disinformation and potentially forgeries,” the professor said.
This is also exactly how true information might be unearthed.
The Daily Beast claimed the laptop repair shop owner kept changing his story, but all the claims that allegedly contradicted each other could have happened simultaneously.
“At one point, Mac Isaac claimed that he was emailing someone from the FBI about the laptop,” The Daily Beast said. “At another point he claimed a special agent from the Baltimore office had contacted him after he alerted the FBI to the device’s existence. At another point, he said the FBI reached out to him for ‘help accessing his drive,’” the Beast reported.
None of these claims are contradictory, unless the Beast simply failed to properly word what the owner said. He alerted the FBI to the computer’s existence, which could have led to an agent from the Baltimore officer reaching out, which may result in emails about the laptop. At some point during these emails, the FBI could have asked for help to access the hard drive.
Critics of the Post story also pointed to Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon’s role in releasing the emails, yet similar Democrat connections never stopped the media from spreading misinformation before. For the first two years of the Trump administration, major media outlets breathlessly repeated claims from Democratic operatives about “bombshells” linking the 2016 Trump campaign to Russia, yet a multi-million-dollar government investigation found no such collusion.
The basis of those claims came from a man hired by a firm hired by The Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, yet the questionable connections didn’t stop reporting that turned out to be false. Facebook and Twitter never censored wildly false stories about Trump colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election.
It should be noted that since all of this took place, a person on the email chain linked to the Post story confirmed to Fox News that the emails were authentic.
Those trying to discredit the Post story have claimed, without evidence, that Russia is behind the information about Hunter Biden. It is the standard response at this point to anything that may be damaging to Democrats.
Okay, maybe the social media giants realized after the Hunter Biden story that they need to clamp down on information connected to people with clear agendas. Yet on Thursday, days after the Post story was published, the media was back to circulating a leaked phone call of Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) criticizing Trump in a private phone call. Suddenly, information obtained without authorization was perfectly alright to distribute again.
These double standards are simply another attempt to keep Biden from having to answer very real questions about his involvement with his son’s employer in Ukraine. Recall that Biden bragged about getting the top Ukrainian prosecutor fired – a prosecutor that just so happened to be looking into Hunter Biden’s company. Many have noted that the prosecutor was seen as corrupt, but what business was it of the U.S. to withhold aid from a country unless they fired a particular prosecutor?
Even without Biden’s brag about getting the prosecutor fired or the photo of him and his son playing golf with one of his business partners involved in the Ukraine deal, the Post story would have been enough to open an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign had this story been about Eric Trump or Donald Trump Jr. Recall that the FBI launched a sweeping probe into Trump associates based on alleged drunken statements by low-level campaign official George Papadopoulos allegedly seeking “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
The media would have eaten up such a story, as would the social media giants, because these people consider anonymous sources “familiar with the matter” more credible than actual photographic evidence.