NYTimes: FEC Dismisses GOP Complaint That Twitter Suppressed Hunter Biden Story (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty)
By Fran Beyer | Monday, 13 September 2021 02:26 PM
The Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint from Republicans that Twitter illegally blocked a 2020 New York Post story on Hunter Biden, ruling the social media company had a commercial — not political — reason for the action, the New York Times reported.
The ruling was made last month behind closed doors and is set to become public soon, the Times reported.
Blocking of the Hunter Biden article triggered widespread criticism last October, and prompted accusations that Twitter was improperly helping Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. The Republican National Committee argued Twitter’s actions amounted to an “illegal in-kind contribution” to the campaign, the Times noted.
But the FEC stated Twitter had “credibly explained” that blocking the article’s distribution was a commercial decision and that the move followed existing policies related to hacked materials, the Times reported.
The New York Post reported it had uncovered emails indicating Hunter Biden introduced his father Joe Biden, then the Democrat nominee for president, to Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.
Twitter had initially reversed its block a day later, with Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey calling it a “mistake.”
The vote by the FEC’s three Republicans and three Democrats is unknown, because the decision itself hasn’t yet been made public, the Times reported.
According to the Times, in addition to rejecting the RNC complaint, the FEC also dismissed allegations that Twitter had violated election laws by “shadow banning” Republican users, or appearing to limit the visibility of their posts without providing an explanation; suppressing other anti-Biden content; and labeling former President Donald Trump’s tweets with warnings about their accuracy.
The FEC wrote the accusations were “vague, speculative and unsupported by the available information.”
Twitter initially said it had prevented linking to the Hunter Biden article because of its existing policy against distributing hacked materials. But Dorsey acknowledged in October that blocking links “with zero context as to why” had been “unacceptable,” the Times noted.
Soon after, Twitter said that it was changing its policy on hacked materials and would allow similar content to be posted, including a label to provide context about the source of the information.
The Times reported the FEC documents reveal Twitter had been suspicious of the Hunter Biden article in part because its head of site integrity said it had “received official warnings throughout 2020 from federal law enforcement that ‘malign state actors’ might hack and release materials associated with political campaigns and that Hunter Biden might be a target of one such operation."
The FEC said if found “no information that Twitter coordinated” its decisions with the Biden campaign.
RNC spokeswoman Emma Vaughn told the Times the committee was “weighing its options for appealing this disappointing decision.”