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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced on Oct. 19 that the committee will consider subpoenas for the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook for testimony about the recent censorship of New York Post alleged exposés on Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Committee staff are negotiating voluntary appearances by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, according to a statement from Graham. Should discussions for voluntary appearances fail, the committee will vote to authorize subpoenas. The issue is on the committee’s agenda for Oct. 22, which is also the day when the committee will hold the highly anticipated vote to recommend Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate.
The draft subpoena text seeks testimony from Zuckerberg and Dorsey on the suppression and censorship of two New York Post articles, titled “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad” and “Emails reveal how Hunter Biden tried to cash in big on behalf of family with Chinese firm.”
The CEOs would also have to answer questions on any other content moderation policies, practices, or actions that may interfere with or “influence elections for federal office” and “any other recent determinations to temporarily reduce distribution of material pending fact checker review and/or block and mark material as potentially unsafe.”
Twitter has already refused to unlock New York Post’s account for four days unless the newspaper deletes tweets about its bombshell reports about Hunter Biden’s laptop and emails, according to several of the paper’s editors.
Emma-Jo Morris, a politics editor with the paper, wrote that it’s now “day 4” of Twitter blocking the Post’s “account access unless we self-censor.” The paper’s opinions editor, Sohrab Ahmari, also confirmed the locked account.
The Post’s articles cited alleged emails from a laptop allegedly dropped off by Hunter Biden at a repair shop. The laptop owner didn’t return for the device and the shop owner turned it over to the FBI and gave a copy of the hard drive to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer. Giuliani is President Donald Trump’s personal attorney. Giuliani turned over the hard drive data to the Post. The emails suggest that Hunter Biden profited from work in China and Ukraine while his father was vice president.
Biden’s campaign and Biden have disputed some of the allegations, with Biden saying that it’s a “smear campaign” in remarks delivered over the weekend.
The Post’s Ahmari said on Twitter: “It’s now been four days since The Post dropped the first Hunter Files story, and neither Joe nor Hunter has disputed a single material fact.
“The easiest thing they could do is to say, ‘That laptop isn’t ours, Hunter didn’t send/receive those e-mails.’ Yet, they haven’t done that.”
As of Oct. 19, the Twitter account showed that the NY Post’s last tweet was on Oct. 14.
Twitter and Facebook faced a criticism this week after the Post’s initial report on Hunter Biden was barred from being shared on Twitter and its reach was limited on Facebook.
Previously, Twitter said the newspaper’s articles violated the social media website’s “hacked materials” policy. The Post disputed the company’s assertions, saying: “Information in the reports came from data extracted from a MacBook Pro laptop that a Delaware repair shop owner has said was dropped off in April 2019 but never picked up,” asserting that the files were not hacked.
On Oct. 16, Twitter updated its policy, writing, “Our work to limit the spread of misleading information goes beyond elections. Starting today, before you Retweet or Quote Tweet any labeled Tweet that breaks our misleading information rules, you’ll see a prompt.”
Twitter said in a statement to the Post: “While we’ve updated the policy, we don’t change enforcement retroactively. You will still need to delete the Tweets to regain access to your account.”
A Facebook executive said last week that it would limit the reach of the article until the platform’s fact-checkers are able determine the authenticity of the claims.
Facebooks pays third-party organizations to decide what is true and what is not. If content includes a claim that has received a negative rating from any of the fact-checkers, Facebook will limit how many people can see it. The fact-checkers focused on American content are dominated by funding and personnel with left-leaning backgrounds.
Jack Phillips and Petr Svab contributed to this report.
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