Social media giants Twitter Inc TWTR and Facebook Inc FB face accusations of political bias from several members of the Republican Party over restricting a New York Post story connected to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
What Happened: The Post published a story on Wednesday that claimed Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden introduced him to a Ukrainian businessman while he was still the vice president — based on email and data extracted from a laptop left at a Delaware repair shop.
The Post’s article alleged that the former vice president pressurized government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor investigating the company the businessman represented.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that blocking the URL related to the story without context was “unacceptable.”
The social media company later officially issued a clarification as to why it blocked the posts related to the story, saying, the images in the tweets contained “personal and private information — like email addresses and phone numbers — which violate our rules.”
The contents of the tweets violated its “Hacked Materials Policy,” according to the company.
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.— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 14, 2020
Facebook’s Policy Communications Director Andy Stone also said in a tweet that the Post’s story was eligible to be fact-checked by the company’s third-party fact-checkers. “In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform,” Stone said.
Why It Matters: Twitter and Facebook’s handling of the Post story and its blocking of the newspaper’s account sparked another political row.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Miss.) said he would ask both Twitter and Facebook to explain their actions surrounding the Biden story under oath to the Senate subcommittee he chairs.
“These are potential violations of election law, and that’s a crime,” the Senator tweeted.
President Donald Trump reiterated his call for repealing a law that provides immunity to social media companies for the content posted by their users.
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!!! https://t.co/g1RJFpIVUZ— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2020
The Post’s op-ed editor Sohrab Ahmari called the move totalitarian, saying the social media companies' intention was to remove the "damaging exposé on their preferred presidential candidate."
Both Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are due to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 28 to testify in relation to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — a week ahead of the U.S. presidential election, as per CNBC.
Price Action: Twitter shares closed nearly 2.2% lower at $45.98 on Wednesday. On the same day, Facebook shares closed almost 1.6% lower at $271.82 and fell 0.15% in the after-hours session.
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