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US election 2020 news: Big Tech’s difficulty over ‘Hunter Biden leaks’ exposed | World | News


Last week, Twitter and Facebook came under fire after they tried to stop an article about Joe Biden’s son from being disseminated across their platforms. Twitter disabled sharing on the article and suspended the account of its publisher the New York Post. Meanwhile Facebook tried to limit the reach of the article. Inadvertently, this was found to have brought more attention to the story with it estimated that more than 2.6 million read the story. In the days that have followed, many have debated how Big Tech companies affect dissemination of news. Some accuse them of censorship that could affect election outcomes and the sites, who reject those claims, say they are trying to find the best ways to limit the spread of misinformation without infringing on free speech. 

The controversial article concerned 2015 emails allegedly written by Hunter Biden and an adviser to Burisma, a Ukrainian private energy company.

The emails allegedly thanked the presidential candidate’s son for inviting him to meet Joe Biden – while he worked as part of Barack Obama’s administration.

At the time of the initial emergence of the claim, Republicans accused Mr Biden of quid pro quo, a claim that was rejected by the politician.  

The Biden campaign also vehemently denied any meeting took place and showed there was no record of it on the former Vice President’s “official schedule”.

After a new take on the story broke last week, it caused controversy on both Twitter and Facebook after they tried to stop its spread due to their belief that the emails could have been hacked.

Rudy Giuliani admitted that he gave the New York Post a copy of the harddrive that contained the alleged Hunter Biden emails – which were reported to have been taken from a laptop left in a repair shop.

Both social media sites apologised and Twitter said it would modify its rules on ‘hacked materials’ to only impact posts from known hackers or those affiliated to them. 

During a heated debate on BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show podcast, Sara Fischer of Axios, claimed it highlighted the problem of making outright decisions about information. 

She said: “It’s a matter of, can you have two things be true at once? Can you have a story that needs scrutiny from all outlets? Because we don’t know whether or not it’s true right.

“We also need to think about the bigger picture, which is, God forbid, that this story was tied towards a bigger disinformation effort to interfere with our elections.

“We need to consider that and you’ve got to see the forest through the trees you’ve got to look at this particular story.”

Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent on the Washington Examiner, said: “The bottom line is it deserves scrutiny by all media outlets. 

“I think everybody deserves a look at the [former Special Counsel Robert] Mueller stuff and I think everyone should look at this and give [Joe] Biden the scrutiny that he [deserves].

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“You know, he’s not running for President of the Glee club, he’s running for President of the United States and this is serious.”

Brian Shelter, a CNN anchor, responded: “I think the bottom line is that we don’t know what is real and what is fake in these emails – if there is anything real in them.”

Toni Cowan-Brown, a podcaster and author, claimed the difference in thought highlighted a “fundamental lack of understanding” over the power of Big Tech companies. 

She said: “The platforms that exist are tied at the hip today to how campaigns are run and how elections are run.

“There is no going back in time now, this is what elections are going to look like, we are going to talk more and more about the tech companies.”

Ms Cowan-Brown felt there was a need for greater understanding of the tools behind the Big Tech companies and how they affect news reporting.

She said: “Tech companies are basically powering the elections today at a national, local [and] global level… and every single day of the year.” 

BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show podcast is available to listen to here.



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