If ‘unreliable’ is the issue, why did social media never block anti-Trump stories?
This is what totalitarianism looks like in our century: not men in darkened cells driving screws under the fingernails of dissidents, but Silicon Valley dweebs removing from vast swaths of the Internet a damaging exposé on their preferred presidential candidate.
That’s what Facebook and Twitter did to the New York Post’s bombshell report on Hunter Biden, revealing why the illustrious vice-presidential son was hired by a shady Ukrainian energy firm in exchange for at least $50,000 a month.
According to e-mails obtained by The Post, Hunter introduced the firm’s executives to his father — just when Joe Biden was the second-most powerful man on earth, with outsize influence over the fate of the embattled Eastern European country.
That information is squarely in the public interest as we head into an election, right? Yes, but it’s also extremely embarrassing for President Trump’s opponent, and so social-media executives went into action.
Andy Stone, a member of Facebook’s p.r. team, said, “We are reducing [the Post story’s] distribution on our platform.” Before joining the social-media giant, Stone worked for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, yet he insisted that Facebook’s action was “part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation.” Right.
Then, Twitter began blocking users from posting the story, with a spokesman telling a Washington Examiner scribe that the move was prompted by “the lack of authoritative reporting on the origins of the materials included” in the report.
Misinformation? Lack of authoritative reporting? The story explained exactly The Post got the material, and the supporting evidence. Yet the past four years have seen left-of-center outlets devote millions of column inches to anti-Trump stories that turned out to be utter bunk — yet neither Facebook nor Twitter took similar action as part of any “standard process”:
- Remember when four CNN reporters claimed, in June 2017, that James Comey was about to dispute in congressional testimony Trump’s claim that the FBI director had reassured the president he wasn’t under investigation? Comey did no such thing, but did Twitter and Facebook censor the story? Nope.
- Or recall when The Guardian newspaper concocted a story, seemingly out of thin air, about Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange meeting at Ecuador’s embassy in London? There was no such meeting, as the special counsel’s report confirmed. So did Facebook or Twitter block that story? Nope, you can still post the debunked nonsense on either platform.
- Or remember when The Atlantic published a several-thousand-word story suggesting that then-Sen. Jeff Sessions had lied when he said he didn’t meet the Russian ambassador as a Team Trump surrogate, but as a routine matter? The Mueller report debunked The Atlantic decisively with its finding that the meeting in question didn’t “include any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.” So is The Atlantic story blocked as misinformation? Nope.
- Or how about when the McClatchy news agency claimed that Trump attorney Michael Cohen had secretly traveled to Prague to meet with his Kremlin handlers? “Cohen had never traveled to Prague,” the Mueller report found. So is the McClatchy report blocked? You know the answer — of course it isn’t.
- Then there was BuzzFeed’s big bombshell that fizzled: a major story claiming that Trump had ordered Cohen to lie to Congress. The Mueller report’s verdict: “The president did not direct [Cohen] to provide false testimony. Cohen also said he did not tell the president about his planned testimony.” Did Facebook and Twitter block the link or otherwise “reduce distribution” pending fact-checking? Of course not. You can still post the lies freely.
- Then there was the biggest of whopper of all: the salacious — and utterly discredited — Steele dossier, first reported by David Corn of Mother Jones and later published by BuzzFeed. Blocked by Big Tech? Ha!
The Post will continue to chase the truth wherever it takes us. But this episode should alarm every American. A very few people can unaccountably shape what you read.
This is how freedom dies.
Sohrab Ahmari is The Post’s op-ed editor. Twitter: @SohrabAhmari
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