U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) points to some faces in the crowd with his son Hunter as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue following the inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama in Washington, January 20, 2009.
Reuters According to Wednesday’s documents, the Federal Election Commission ruled that it did not infringe federal election law because of unsubstantiated claims made by Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden.| Reuters
The Federal Election Commission has ruled Twitter did not violate federal elections law when it restricted the distribution of a New York Post article with unverified claims about President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, according to documents made public Wednesday.
It also found Twitter did not violate the law by adding warning labels to former President Donald Trump’s tweets or allegedly “shadow banning” conservative viewpoints.
In a unanimous decision, the agency concluded that Twitter had taken valid decisions on commercial grounds. This was according to statements by Allen Dickerson (Vice Chair) and James “Trey” Trainor III who are Republicans.
While acknowledging the complexity of social media moderation and the need to address campaign finance questions, they said “one should not be afraid of the hard policy issues that arise.” They stated such matters are outside the FEC’s jurisdiction. They stated that Congress was the right forum to address the concerns of the complainants.
Twitter and Facebook caused an uproar among conservatives ahead of the 2020 election when they decided to limit the distribution of the Post’s story that claimed to show “smoking gun” emails about then-Democratic nominee Biden’s son. Biden’s spokesperson at the time stated that the Post did not ask campaign questions about the story, and denied the allegations made in it.
Twitter stated that it blocked links to the story due to its Hacked Material Policy, which prohibits “the use our services to direct distribute content obtained via hacking that contains personal information, could put people in danger or contain trade secrets”. Unredacted email addresses were found in the Post article, which allegedly came from an unauthorized source.
The company later changed that policy, saying it would only remove content directly shared by hackers or those working with them. Additionally, it stated that tweets would be labeled with additional context and not blocked from sharing.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey called the company’s initial response in blocking the link without explanation, “unacceptable.”
Dickerson, Trainor said that Twitter doesn’t have to adhere to a political neutrality obligation.
They wrote that a single commercial decision can still be considered a commercial judgement. However, there are no requirements for it to form part of an established pattern of ideological and partisan impartiality so long it does not encourage Americans to vote in one direction or the other.
Twitter, they suggested, should be treated as a “press entity” in campaign finance law. This exempts it from some obligations that are required for other entities. They referenced the New York Times’ infamous slogan, “All The News That’s Fit To Print,” writing, “That is precisely what Twitter did here: it made the editorial judgment that links to the New York Post articles were not ‘fit to print’—or, restated, ‘fit to share.'”
Twitter’s head of site integrity had been warned by officials in federal law enforcement that state actors could release hacked information of political targets such as Hunter Biden, according to a document signed by the FEC’s acting general counsel recommending the commission not find Twitter in violation of the law.
Also, the agency found no evidence to suggest that Twitter had coordinated its responses with Biden’s campaign. Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s U.S. head of public policy, stated in an affidavit that she had not been in contact with the campaign before the decision.