Conservatives were left fuming after Twitter and Facebook decided to block the controversial New York Post story on Hunter Biden from their platforms. The move sparked a debate over censorship rules on social media as the tech giants struggle to tackle the spread of misinformation ahead of the crucial November presidential election.
On Wednesday, Twitter prohibited users from sharing the link to the Post story that reported Hunter Biden initiated a meeting between his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, and Burisma Holdings — the Ukrainian natural-gas company that Hunter joined.
Twitter notified its users, who attempted to post the link, with a notification stating the request could not be completed "because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful."
In a series of tweets, Twitter explained it blocked the circulation of the story because it contained hacked contents and personal and private information such as email addresses and phone numbers.
The micro-blogging site clarified that the Post story itself did not violate the company's policy on hacked materials but the use of "links to or images of hacked material themselves" is. Under this policy, Twitter users are not allowed to post hacked materials in any form, including a tweet, image or sharing of the links to hosted hacked content.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expressed his disdain over the blocking of the Post story from the micro-blogging site without context or explanation. "Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we're blocking: unacceptable," Dorsey tweeted.
Meanwhile, Facebook said it reduced the distribution of the story on its platform pending independent fact-checking. Facebook spokesman Andy Stone announced the company's decision on Twitter. The move surprised many since Facebook has been known for its not-so-firm approach towards spreading of controversial or dubious stories.
Twitter and Facebook's decision to limit the spread of the Post story drew backlash from the news company and conservatives. In an editorial, the New York Post said the two social media companies were "propaganda machines" and accused Facebook of helping the Biden campaign.
President Donald Trump called Twitter and Facebook's decision "terrible" and reiterated the calls to repeal Section 230 —a law that granted legal immunity to social media companies for posts and information shared by their users and allowed them to moderate the content without being treated as publishers.
Sen. Ted Cruz said he sent letters to Twitter and Facebook seeking explanation behind censoring the Post story. Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate the social media companies for a possible violation campaign-finance law over the blocking of the Post story.
Criticism for New York Post Story
The major criticism the Post story received was around the way the publication sourced the emails involving Hunter and Joe Biden. As per the Post, the materials were retrieved from a laptop that was dropped off last April at a repair shop in Delaware, Biden's home state.
Moreover, according to the metadata on the PDF file showing Hunter Biden's emails showed that they were created on a Mac laptop on Sep. 29 and Oct. 10, 2019. This cast doubt over their authenticity since the files were created months after the laptop was dropped off at the repair store in April 2019.
This April, the Post circulated a conspiracy theory promoted by former Trump adviser Roger Stone stating that Bill Gates was behind creating the coronavirus so that people could be microchipped.