The Federal Election Commission (FEC) dismissed a claim from Republicans that Twitter violated election laws just weeks before the 2020 election by suppressing a New York Post report on Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden.
While reporting on the FEC’s decision, The New York Times on Twitter and in its article called the story about Hunter “unsubstantiated,” even though it was based on extensive documents obtained from a laptop belonging to the president’s son. Numerous outlets have since corroborated and accepted the laptop story. Even CNN acknowledged that the FBI did receive a laptop purporting to belong to Hunter and that “the assumption is that it is Hunter Biden’s laptop.” Many other outlets tiptoed around the information in an effort to avoid reporting it, such as The Washington Post, which was still forced to admit at least some of the information from the laptop could be verified as true. Outlets continue to couch the story with speculations that the laptop may be fake or stolen or “Russian disinformation,” even though no such evidence exists.
The original New York Post story about the laptop included screenshots and quotes from documents the outlet obtained from Hunter’s laptop, which was reportedly left at a computer repair shop in Delaware but never retrieved. The laptop also contained compromising photos of Hunter. Hunter eventually admitted that the laptop “certainly” could belong to him but insisted it might have been stolen or hacked.
Without any evidence the laptop or its information was fake, Twitter blocked links to the Post’s article and also suspended the Post’s account, citing policy about publishing hacked information. Other social media outlets also blocked access to the article in the weeks before the 2020 election. No such action was ever taken by these outlets when the damaging information was against former President Donald Trump. For example, The New York Times reported information about Trump’s taxes that it could not have obtained legally, since tax information is private. Twitter took no issue with the Times publishing that information.
The Republican National Committee filed a formal complaint against Twitter, insisting its suppression of the New York Post article was an “illegal in-kind contribution” to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Last month, according to the Times, the FEC dismissed the complaint, saying Twitter had “credibly explained” why it blocked the Post link, even though the social media outlet eventually reversed its decision and CEO Jack Dorsey called that decision a “mistake.”
“The F.E.C.’s official vote on the case — the commission is split equally between three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans — is not yet public, nor are any additional statements written by commissioners. Such statements often accompany the closure of cases and can provide further insight into the commission’s reasoning,” the Times reported.
The FEC also rejected allegations that Twitter also violates election laws by limiting the reach of conservative users without explanation and “shadow banning” them. The FEC also disagreed that the social media violated election laws by treating conservatives differently than liberals, such as suppressing anti-Biden content and labeling Trump’s tweets as misinformation but not doing the same for Democrats. The FEC insisted those claims were “vague, speculative and unsupported by the available information.”
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