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N.Y. Post Biden Story Spreads Despite Censorship Claims

Sarah Kopit
·3 mins read

(Bloomberg) -- Republican leaders claim tech companies are manipulating the election by limiting the spread of a New York Post article on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. But the data shows the conversation has gone viral anyway.

As of Thursday, the article was mentioned 4.5 million times across all sources, according to the media intelligence platform Zignal Labs. What’s more, sharing of the link almost doubled on Twitter after the platform started to suppress the link, Zignal found.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump weighed in, via tweet, “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.”

Twitter and Facebook curbed the spread of the article on Wednesday. Facebook said it would diminish the story’s reach until its fact checkers reviewed it. Twitter, meanwhile, said the documents linked in the story violate its policy that forbids the sharing of peoples’ personal information, like email addresses. Twitter also suggested the documents may have come from a hack, and sharing hacked documents is against the company’s rules.

The Post story said emails purportedly from Hunter Biden show he introduced his father, then-Vice President Biden, to an executive at a Ukrainian energy firm. The paper claims the communication contradicts an assertion by Joe Biden that he hasn’t spoken to his son about his business dealings. But the email doesn’t detail the extent of the meeting or whether Biden spoke to his son about it. It also doesn’t say definitively whether Biden actually met the executive.

The president isn’t the only one who’s upset. Today, Republican Senator Josh Hawley asked Facebook and Twitter to testify before a committee on the decision to suppress the article, claiming they may have violated campaign finance laws. And Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey called his company’s communication around the article “unacceptable.”

Google’s search engine was treating the New York Post stories like any other popular article online. A search for “NY Post hunter biden emails” showed an early autocomplete result after only part of query was typed in. The top two results were links to the latest New York Post story on the topic.

On YouTube, Google’s video site, a version of the Post story from the newspaper’s account had over 97,000 views as of Thursday morning. Currently, the top results for searches on Hunter Biden on YouTube produce videos from news outlet about the political blowback over the social network’s decisions.

A Google spokeswoman confirmed that the company was not treating the Post story any differently than other news coverage on search or YouTube but declined to comment further.

Trump and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly accused social media platforms of censoring conservative content and have threatened to strip away some protections from lawsuits that the companies have enjoyed. Roughly three quarters of U.S. adults said it was very or somewhat likely that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints they find objectionable, according to a June survey by the Pew Research Center. Republicans were more likely to say major tech companies favor the views of liberals, the survey found.

Both Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have researched the issue internally and said their data doesn’t back up the claims. On Thursday, Facebook’s top-performing links were from Trump, Fox News and Dan Bongino, a conservative political commentator, according to Facebook’s Crowdtangle data tool.

(Updates with reasons for Twitter’s and Facebook’s actions)

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