FEC finds Twitter didn’t break law by blocking spread of Hunter Biden story
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has ruled that Twitter did not break election laws in October when it blocked users from sharing links to a New York Post story about President Biden’s son Hunter Biden, according to The New York Times.
The Times, citing a document it obtained outlining the decision, reported Monday that the FEC said Twitter’s actions in blocking the spread of the article were undertaken with valid commercial reason — not a political purpose — making them legal.
It said the company “credibly explained” that stopping the spread of the article, which was based on an email retrieved from the hard drive of a laptop that was said to belong to Hunter Biden, was a commercial decision in line with existing policies that pertain to hacked materials.
The commission reportedly made the decision last month in private and will reveal it in public soon. The final vote of the commission — which is made up of of three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans — remains unknown.
The controversy began when the New York Post published a story in October 2020 — less than a month before the presidential election — alleging that Hunter Biden used his influence to connect a Ukrainian businessman, and fellow board member at the gas company Burisma, with his father when he was serving as vice president.
The Post said it had received documents used for the story from then-President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and that the information was discovered on a laptop that was dropped off at a repair shop in April 2019 and never retrieved.
Twitter and Facebook took steps to limit the spread of the story after questions sparked regarding its sourcing.
The platform prevented users from sharing links to the story in tweets or direct messages based on its hacked materials policy, which sparked outrage among Republicans.
Days after, however, Twitter decided to reverse its decision. CEO Jack Dorsey later said banning the sharing of the story was a “mistake.”
The Republican National Committee (RNC) filed a formal FEC complaint against Twitter contending that the platform’s decision to block the sharing of the story was an “illegal in-kind contribution” to then-candidate Biden’s campaign.
The FEC in its ruling also reportedly dismissed claims that Twitter breached election laws by “shadow banning” Republican users, or appearing to decrease the visibility of their posts without giving an explanation.
The commission also dismissed claims that Twitter violated election regulations by suppressing other content that was unfavorable to President Biden and labeling Trump’s tweets with warnings for misinformation.
The commission said those allegations were “vague, speculative and unsupported by the available information.”
The RNC said it is weighing its options to appeal the “disappointing” FEC decision.
“As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said recently, it was a ‘total mistake’ for Twitter to suppress this important story. Worse, it was also illegal and our complaint persuasively explains why,” RNC spokeswoman Emma Vaughn told The Hill in a statement.
Twitter, when reached by The Hill, declined to comment.