Within hours of its publication, Facebook and Twitter took steps to restrict dissemination of a story in the New York Post on Wednesday that contained alleged details of how Hunter Biden used his influence with his then Vice President father, Joe Biden, in business dealings with Ukrainian energy company Burisma where he was a board member.
The article contained a series of emails between Hunter Biden and Burisma representatives, which appear to show the company asking the younger Biden to use his influence on the firm’s behalf, and also thanking him for arranging a meeting with the elder Biden in Washington.
According to Reuters, which said it could not independently confirm the content of the Post article itself, Twitter prohibited its users from posting links to the Post story, while Facebook reduced how often the story shows up in users’ news feeds and elsewhere on the Facebook platform.
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Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement that Republican-led Senate committees have previously concluded that Biden engaged in no wrongdoing related to Ukraine, Reuters said.
“The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story,” Bates said.
“We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place,” he added.
Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma in April 2014. An undated photo shown on a US news channel depicts both Hunter and Joe Biden golfing with a board member of Burisma, and one of the emails in April 2015 from an adviser to the board of Burisma thanks Hunter Biden “for giving me an opportunity to meet your father”.
Donald Trump said it was “terrible” that Twitter and Facebook “took down the story of ‘Smoking Gun’ emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter”.
The New York Post, in an editorial responding to the companies’ actions, said: “Censor first, ask questions later: It’s an outrageous attitude for two of the most powerful platforms in the United States to take.” The newspaper did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, limited dissemination of the Post story within hours of its publication on Wednesday, according to a tweet by spokesman Andy Stone.
Stone cited a policy saying that Facebook can temporarily take action against content pending review by news organisations and others in its third-party fact-checking program “if we have signals that a piece of content is false.”
Twitter said the story violated its “hacked materials” policy, which bars the distribution of content obtained through hacking that contains private information or trade secrets, or puts people at risk of physical harm. It provided no details on what materials it viewed as hacked in the Post articles.
A brief post, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said: “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”.
“It was not hacked at all,” lawyer and Trump associate Rudy Giuliani, through whom the emails landed with the Post, told Reuters. Twitter said in a series of tweets that images contained in two Post articles included personal information such as email addresses and phone numbers, which put them in violation of the company’s “private information policy.”
Cristina Tardaguila, associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network, said she considered Facebook’s decision to take action without disclosing its methodology “disturbing,” Reuters reported.
Although Facebook can ask fact checkers for ratings on particular pieces of content, multiple fact-checking partners, including a unit of Reuters, said the company had not done do in this case, nor had they opted to initiate a check on their own.
Despite the moves to restrict dissemination the story reached the top 10 list of most-shared English-language links in Facebook pages and groups, while the topic was still among those trending on Twitter as of Wednesday afternoon, Reuters said.
NEW YORK POST
The Post said the emails had originally come from an old laptop of Hunter Biden’s that was handed in for repair and never reclaimed and then given to the FBI by the repairman as it also allegedly contained compromising personal videos of Hunter Biden. A copy of the hard drive was also made by the repairman and made its way to Giuliani.
According to the Post, Hunter Biden introduced his father, the then US Vice President, to the Burisma executive less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company.
Joe Biden had publicly talked on video during a Council of Foreign Relations event in 2018 about how he got prosecutor Viktor Shokin fired.
He said that in March 2016, he had told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that the US government would cancel $1 billion of loan guarantees unless Shokin, who was facing his own charges of corruption, was removed from office.
“I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion,’” Biden said in the videotaped speech. “I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’”
“Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Biden concluded. Shokin was formally ousted from his post by the Ukrainian Parliament that same month.
Within weeks, the investigation into Burisma was dropped. Hunter Biden remained on its board until April 2019, severing his ties with the company days before Joe Biden announced his White House run, according to the Post.
Joe Biden has repeatedly denied he has ever discussed Burisma with his son.