Doubts persist over the authenticity of emails obtained by the New York Post that apparently show Joe Biden’s son Hunter traded on his father’s position as vice-president in 2015.
Social media giants Twitter and Facebook are in hot water after censoring an article by the New York Post that described an apparent trove of emails belonging to Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
The New York Post, which is owned by Trump ally Rupert Murdoch, says that the emails show that the younger Biden introduced his father, who was US vice-president at the time to an executive at a Ukrainian energy firm called Burisma, where he served on the board at a salary of $50,000 per month.
“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father,” an email sent in April 2015 purportedly by the executive to Hunter Biden reads. The Burisma executive, Vadym Pozharskyi, further asked Biden to use his “influence” on the company’s behalf, according to the apparent leaks.
Later that year, Joe Biden, along with several other US politicians successfully lobbied the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor reportedly responsible for investigating corruption at Burisma, named Viktor Shokin.
Pozharskyi is then said to have thanked Hunter Biden in an email for getting his father to have Shokin removed.
How Facebook and Twitter fit in
In an unprecedented move, social media giants Twitter and Facebook, censored the spread of links leading to the New York Post story causing consternation among supporters of Trump, who claimed the sites were attempting to influence the upcoming election in favour of Biden by suppressing negative content about him.
Facebook tweaked its algorithm to prevent the story from being ‘recommended’ on users’ timelines pending verification and Twitter prevented tweets and direct messages containing the link from appearing over violations of its policy on the sharing of private information and content obtained through hacking.
Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey condemned the manner in which his company decided to censor the material in a tweet on Thursday.
“Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable.” Dorsey wrote.
The two social media giants have previously been scrutinised for their role in the dissemination of fake news but some argue that by intervening to stop the spread of the alleged Hunter Biden emails, they had crossed the line into political partisanship.
In an editorial, the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, cited the Los Angeles Times reporter, Matt Pearce, who said: “The New York Post story is obviously kind of wild and deserves scrutiny, but Facebook limiting distribution is a bit like if a company that owned newspaper delivery trucks decided not to drive because it didn’t like a story.”
Greenwald himself then summarised his own concerns: “Just over two weeks before a presidential election, Silicon Valley giants- whose industry leaders and workforce overwhelmingly favor the Democratic candidate- took extraordinary steps to block millions, perhaps tens of millions, of American voters from being exposed to what purports to be a major exposé by one of the country’s oldest and largest newspapers.”
The Bidens and Ukraine
US President Donald Trump has previously accused the Democratic nominee of helping to remove Shokin to protect Burisma- and by extension his son- from scrutiny.
Former Obama administration officials deny that and claim that they pressured for Shokin’s removal because he had failed to investigate corruption among Ukrainian politicians.
Biden, the elder, has categorically said that he has never spoken to Hunter about his business dealings but that statement would be contradicted were it to be proven that the emails are authentic.
As things stand, while the authenticity of the emails have not been proven, neither Biden senior or junior have outright denied they are real.
Further details included in the New York Post cache include images of Hunter Biden high on drugs while taking part in a sex act, and dealings with businesses, including in China.
The newspaper says that it obtained the data from former New York mayor and Trump ally, Rudy Guiliani, after it was tipped off by former Trump advisor, Steve Bannon.
Guiliani got the leaks from his lawyer Robert Costello, who in turn was approached by a laptop repair shop owner in the city of Los Angeles, whom Hunter had entrusted with the device.
The shop owner had notified federal investigators, who seized the computer, but not before making a copy of the data.
Officials from the FBI are now investigating whether the emails bear the hallmarks of a foreign intelligence operation.
In the 2016 presidential election, emails leaked to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were released on whistleblower websites, with US officials later concluding that Russian intelligence operatives were responsible.
The apparent attempt to influence the outcome of that election has kept US intelligence services on high alert of a repeat.
Releasing the private pictures of Hunter Biden is disgusting. That serves no legitimate purpose. But the Burisma emails are of obvious public interest. Has anyone even alleged that those emails are anything other than authentic?https://t.co/0sFVmPToPv— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 14, 2020