Donald Trump threatens to remove tech platform protections after Twitter and Facebook censor Hunter Biden story
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Donald Trump has threatened to remove protections for tech companies after Twitter and Facebook censored a story about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
The New York Post story claims Hunter Biden introduced his father to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm before the former vice president lobbied for the firing of a prosecutor who had investigated the company.
The story, which focused on an email from 2015 in which a Burisma board adviser thanked Hunter for inviting him to a Washington meeting with his father, was headlined: “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad.”
The Biden campaign said no such meeting ever took place.
On Wednesday afternoon, Twitter began stopping users from sharing links to the article in tweets and direct messages as it violated the company’s policy which bans hacked content.
Those who attempted to share the story were shown a notice saying: “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.”
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone also said the social media company was working to reduce the distribution of the article on its platform.
“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,” he said.
Mr Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also had her personal Twitter account locked after sharing the story.
Following the decision to restrict the story on Twitter and Facebook, Mr Trump called for Section 230 to be repealed.
Referring to the protections the Silicon Valley tech giants receive as platforms rather than publishers, he said: “So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of ‘Smoking Gun’ emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the @NYPost.
“It is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician. REPEAL SECTION 230!!!”
In response to the removal of Ms McEnany’s tweet, the Trump campaign said: “Twitter has locked the personal account of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany for sharing news Democrats don’t like.”
Her account started working again late on Wednesday, but her retweet of the story said: “This tweet is no longer available.”
On her official White House account, Ms McEnany said “censorship should be condemned”.
Speaking at his rally in Iowa, Mr Trump said: “They [Twitter] closed down her account.
“She’s the White House press secretary. Because she’s reporting the truth, they closed down her account. So let’s see what’s going to happen.”
Hunter Biden joined the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma in 2014, around the time his father, then US vice president, was helping conduct the Obama administration’s foreign policy with Ukraine.
Senate Republicans said in a recent report that the appointment may have posed a conflict of interest, but they did not present evidence that the hiring influenced US policies.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump and his supporters have advanced a widely discredited theory that Mr Biden pushed for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor to protect his son and Burisma from investigation.
Mr Biden did press for the prosecutor’s firing, but this was due to the official position of the Obama administration, the Associated Press reports.
The main email highlighted by the New York Post story is a May 2015 message that it said was sent to Hunter Biden by Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to Burisma’s board.
He thanks the younger Biden “for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent (sic) some time together. It’s realty (sic) an honor and pleasure”.
The Biden campaign said it had reviewed Mr Biden’s schedules from the time and no meeting as described by the newspaper took place.
In an editorial, the New York Post slammed Facebook and Twitter for censoring the story.
“Facebook and Twitter are not media platforms. They’re propaganda machines,” it said.
Twitter said in a statement: “We want to provide much needed clarity around the actions we’ve taken with respect to two NY Post articles that were first tweeted this morning.
“The images contained in the articles include personal and private information — like email addresses and phone numbers — which violate our rules.
“As noted this morning, we also currently view materials included in the articles as violations of our Hacked Materials Policy.
“Commentary on or discussion about hacked materials, such as articles that cover them but do not include or link to the materials themselves, aren’t a violation of this policy. Our policy only covers links to or images of hacked material themselves.
“The policy, established in 2018, prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization. We don’t want to incentivise hacking by allowing Twitter to be used as distribution for possibly illegally obtained materials.”
It added: “We know we have more work to do to provide clarity in our product when we enforce our rules in this manner. We should provide additional clarity and context when preventing the tweeting or DMing of URLs that violate our policies.”
New York Post