0 $
2,500 $
5,000 $
895 $
6 DAYS LEFT UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER

Sloppy Methodology: Social Media, Censorship and New York Post’s Hunter Biden Story

Support SouthFront

Sloppy Methodology: Social Media, Censorship and New York Post’s Hunter Biden Story

ILLUSTRATIVE IMAGE

Submitted by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

It was highly probable.  Given the howls of concern that social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook nurse and nurture a bias (every choice on content entails one), a gift was made to critics to show just that.  Last Wednesday, Twitter prevented users from posting links to a New York Post story.  The story, claimed Twitter, was “potentially unsafe,” replete with “hacked materials”.  Those attempting to post links to the article faced a terse message.  “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.”  Facebook followed suit by restricting the story’s spread, placing it in the hands of third-party fact checkers.

The article in question featured Hunter Biden, making mention of an alleged email from April 2015 suggesting that he had introduced his father, Democratic presidential contender and former Vice President Joe Biden, to Vadym Pozharskyi, an executive of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy firm.  “Dear Hunter,” goes this email supposedly obtained by the Post, “thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent[sic] some time together.  It’s realty[sic] an honor and pleasure.”

The email correspondence had been purportedly obtained from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, though the owner of the computer repair store who passed on the material to the FBI and one Rudy Giuliani was unsure if Hunter had left the computer with him.  Thin stuff to go on.

Father Biden repeatedly claims to have never discussed his son’s “overseas business dealings” with him.  The Biden election campaign has also denied that the meeting ever took place.  “We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”

At another time, the move by the platform might have caused a shrug of indifference.  But Biden is leading in the polls.  Every anti-Trump agitator is concerned to ease the pathway for the president’s defeat.   Every advocate for Trump is keen to ensure that flames are lit under his opponent.

Republicans saw horror and golden opportunities, using a narrative long deployed by the Democrats against the Trump administration and the GOP: that social media platforms had become the unwitting, or even witting accomplices to electoral interference and misinformation glee.  “This is a power grab from big tech billionaires drunk on their own power,” fumed Texas Senator Ted Cruz in a Saturday press call.  “This is a direct act of electoral interference,” asserted GOP House Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).  “We ask: did anyone at Twitter communicate with the Biden campaign?  Did the Joe Biden campaign have any communications with Twitter, Facebook?”

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, could also lay some claim to being victimised – in a fashion.  Her personal Twitter account was locked after she posted the article late on Wednesday.  On Thursday, Twitter momentarily blocked a link to a House Judiciary Committee webpage.

It was all too much for the Republican National Committee, which filed a Federal Election Complaint against Twitter on Friday arguing that censoring Post’s article constituted an “illegal corporate in-kind political contribution” to Biden’s campaign.  Twitter, the complaint argued, had “engaged in arguably the most brazen and unprecedented act of media suppression in this country’s history, and it is doing so for the clear purpose of supporting the Biden campaign.”

For his part, President Donald Trump released a few volleys of rage.  “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.”

With what can only be seen as another twist of Cleo’s irony, Trump again suggested the repeal of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the very same provision his detractors also argue should be confined to legislative oblivion.  The section grants legal immunity to internet platforms for enabling users to post content. It also provides a “Good Samaritan” clause enabling platforms to remove or block material deemed offensive.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration issued a scrappy, clumsy proposal to reform section 230 that would penalise companies for removing material while sparing others.  The proposal attempts to challenge company immunity for hosting material provided by a third party.  Platforms, or “interactive computer services” would only be able to claim immunity from suit if they removed or restricted access or availability to such content falling within a range of objectionable categories. These include material “promoting self-harm,” and “promoting terrorism or violent extremism” though definitions are left begging.  As to how one is to arrive at such a standard, it is that of an objective, reasonable belief.

Biden is of like mind – at least in terms of his loathing for section 230.  The stance there, as it has been for the entire anti-Trump coterie, is holding social media companies to account for knowingly disseminating misinformation and falsehoods.  (The knowing element tends to be the problem.)  In his January interview with The New York Times, Biden argued for its immediate revocation.  “For [Mark] Zuckerberg and other platforms.”  A company such as Facebook was not “merely an internet company.  It is propagating falsehoods we know to be false.”  There was “no editorial impact at all.” It was “totally irresponsible.”

The decision by Twitter and Facebook regarding the New York Post article recklessly adds fuel to GOP claims.  While it was being celebrated by Kevin Roose in The New York Times as an indication that Facebook and Twitter were “finally starting to clean up their messes,” there was little by way of elucidation.  Cristina Tardáguila of the International Fact-Checking Network had a few questions for Facebook.  What was their methodology in such cases?  “How do they identify what needs to be less distributed?” Could such decisions ever eschew partisanship?

Twitter’s decisions had not been well-argued or well-reasoned.  The Post episode moved chief executive Jack Dorsey to an admission. “Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great.  And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM [direct message] with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable.”

The storm duly caused a change of heart.  The high priests of social media went about their business of tinkering and readjusting content policies.  “Straight blocking of URLs was wrong,” Dorsey reiterated, “and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix. Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that.”

Vijaya Gadde, speaking for the Twitter collective as the company’s global lead for legal, policy, and trust and safety, claimed “that labelling Tweets and empowering people to assess content for themselves better serves the public interest and public conversation.  The Hacked Material Policy is being updated to reflect these new enforcement rules.”

According to Gadde, Twitter would no longer remove hacked content except the sort “directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them”.  Not exactly a rousing change.  Tweets would also be labelled “to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter.” Contextualised editorialising – of a sort.

The implications for such a decision are not small fare.  Twitter’s decision to limit dissemination of the article for having content supposedly hacked was a scolding gesture to the way material is obtained.  In the miasmic terror of foreign interference, bias and how electoral contests might tip in favour of or against the ogre in the White House, perspectives on what can be discussed and spread have been skewed.  What of purloined material that exposes state or corporate misdemeanour, the bread and butter enterprise of such groups as Anonymous?  With this rationale, as Glenn Greenwald noted with characteristic seriousness, reporting on everything from the Pentagon Papers to the Panama Papers would find itself restricted, if not blocked altogether.  A real boon for the censors.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Support SouthFront

SouthFront

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
32 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
johnny rotten

While the rabbis are struggling to decide which of them will have their man in the oval office, they will surely agree to blame the Russians for this interference in their private struggles.

rightiswrong rightiswrong

The DNI in the US today derided Sen Schiff’s allegations of Russian dis-information.

He said the FBI are investigating the laptop incident, and that they were sure it was not related to the Kremlin.

The Director could be facing a firing squad, if Sleepy Joe wins, lol.

Assad must stay

i hope joe wins i am beyond tired of trump

rightiswrong rightiswrong

Joe Biden won’t be good for the ME.

Trump didn’t send the forces to Syria, that was done on Joe’s watch as VP, with his blessing. He also voted for the Iraq War, he’s a warmaker, a stooge of Wall Street and the MIC.

Assad must stay

trump could have pulled them out but hes not, hes sending more, stealing syrias oil, what are you talking about? and all his anti-iran actions

rightiswrong rightiswrong

Biden sent them, Trump didn’t. Trump has ordered his troops home on a number of occasions, the Pentagon has refused to do so. Trump cannot get the FBI to investigate Sleepy Joe for corruption and taking money from China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, despite Biden’s drug addicted son from holding all the data on a laptop that the FBI have had for years.

Trump is by far, the lesser of two evils.
Hilary, remember Biden agreed to stand down in deference to her in 2016, would have sent the US military into Syria like Iraq, millions of dead.

Trump backed down after Iran bombed his bases, Clinton would have nuked Iran.

No contest between them.

Assad must stay

yea right a lot of what u said is not true at all, true biden may be more anti-russia but he is i think much less anti-iran , and kushner and ivanka are in bed with you know who, is that really not as bad as dealing with ukraine and china seriously? if trump cannot get the pentagon to bring the troops home is he really that effective? you are defending weakness, trump just says hes leaving iraq or afghanistan but they end up in syria, and you know i am right

rightiswrong rightiswrong

If you think Biden would be better, good luck to you.

Biden and Obomber sent ISIS, then US troops into Syria.

Trump is hostage to the forces who send ISIS around the world.

Assad must stay

that was obomber, what biden will do remains to be seen but i hope not the same as obomber

rightiswrong rightiswrong

You hope?

That’s the best you can come up with!

Assad must stay

Yes what can you come up with?

rightiswrong rightiswrong

A better choice than tweedle dee or tweedle dum, but that’s freedumb and democracy for you.

roland

Do you know why trump “won” the last election, it’s because he is more corrupt than Clinton. Trump is the biggest fraud they could find in America that’s why he is president. Wake the fuck up

rightiswrong rightiswrong

He won the last election as he got the votes.

Go fuck yourself.

roland

I fuck myself all the time, which is better than what trump does he’s been accused of rape more times than Bill Clinton.

rightiswrong rightiswrong

Like Russia then, always someone to blame.

Peter Jennings

Twatter got ahead of themselves and had to make a U-turn. Jack Dorsey says their goal is to provide context. That’s hardly unlikely if the twats at twatter keep sensoring content.

When the Trumpster gets his second term, it’s will be the beginning of the end for shyster media types.

Assad must stay

inshallah the “trumpster” loses and loses bigly

roland

And what difference will it make?

Assad must stay

big difference i think

roland

I really don’t think it will make a difference we have had the same bullshit from both sides of politics for as long as I have been alive. What would change?

Assad must stay

yea i know what you mean, time will tell i guess, i am just beyond sick and tired of trump and would rather have biden as president because its only going to be one of them, no third party candidate ever gets a chance at winning unfortunately

roland

im sick to death of trump and the people that support him i hate the way they play the victim like the way they whinge about antifa picking on them when antifa are a bunch of commie hippies I mean if you can’t stand up to them your a pussy that deserves a smack in the head. Trump supporters deserve a smack in the head anyway it might wake them up to fraud that Trump is. But Biden isn’t the answer my advice to everyone is don’t vote it only gives the political system they have set up legitimacy.

Assad must stay

you might be right, i already voted tho, mainly to legalize marijuana where i live haha

roland

Can you send some of that hooch to Australia im having a hard time getting it at the moment. I can get meth at any time of the day or night but I’ve quit that shit and some nice buds would help with the withdrawals that’s why im up at one thirty in the morning drinking coffee and smoking white ox tobbaco stone cold sober…

Assad must stay

If i can find any sure haha :) is it legal there?

roland

No it’s illegal still in Australia

Assad must stay

thats whack bro

RichardD

At first I thought that the Biden pedophile rape and torture tapes would be a death knell for his campaign. But now I’m beginning to question that with the damage control going on. This article doesn’t once mention the pedophile rape torture allegations. And like the rest of the msm is ignoring it and focusing on the corruption issue which is easily obfuscated and drowned out in all of the noise of accusations and counter accusations.

If the pedophile rape torture part of this story isn’t brought to the forefront with credible evidence and made the central issue of this event. Then it’s going to turn into a nothing burger that won’t swing the election in Trump’s favor.

roland

Why is it only democrats that are getting accused of pedophilia crimes? and where are these accusations coming from? I will suggest it’s israel they have sexually compromised trump so they know he will be loyal and do as he is told. The democrats have been more vocal against Israel. That is why every retarded q supporter thinks the democrats are the deep state pedos but not the Republicans.

RichardD

Jones is accusing both parties of pedophilia. Hastert was the republican speaker of the house.

Given Trump’s history, no one would be surprised by lascivious accusations.

My view is that Jews collectively and Israel in particular are America’s and humanity’s biggest problem and should be humanely gotten rid of by outlawing Judaism worldwide. And assimilating former Jews into Jew free societies. And punishing the criminal elements.

roland

Hey where’s Jen’s is he still hanging around here? It’s one thirty in the morning here in Oz and im sober and bored and some of Jen’s bizzare commentary would really cheer me up.

32
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x