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Fresh 'emails' challenge Biden over son's Ukraine business
[WASHINGTON] Facebook's and Twitter's decisions to limit links to a New York Post article critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Wednesday sparked outrage among conservatives and accusations of partisan censorship at the height of the presidential election battle.
The New York Post reported that it had obtained a computer abandoned by Biden's son Hunter that implicated the former vice-president in Hunter Biden's Ukraine business. Biden Sr has repeatedly denied any such involvement.
"Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad," the newspaper's headline read.
As Mr Biden's campaign denied he ever met the businessman, Facebook and Twitter placed restrictions on linking to the article, saying there were questions about its validity.
"This is part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation," said Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone.
Twitter said it was limiting the article's spread due to questions about "the origins of the materials" included in the article.
The New York Post said the computer had been left by Hunter Biden at a Delaware computer repair shop in April 2019.
The unnamed shop owner told the newspaper that after it seemed to have been forgotten, he copied the hard drive and gave the machine to federal authorities for an investigation.
The shop owner passed the hard drive copy to Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, who provided it to the newspaper just weeks before the November 3 election.
While the Biden campaign did not deny the existence of the computer or validity of the emails on it, Mr Giuliani has a record of producing disinformation and making bogus claims about both Bidens and Ukraine.
In September the US Treasury said one "source" Mr Giuliani met with several times, Ukrainian politician Andrii Derkach, "has been an active Russian agent for over a decade." But the two social media giants' block on the article drew strong criticism that they were protecting Mr Biden even as he leads Mr Trump in a tough fight for the White House.
The New York Post blasted the two for trying to help Mr Biden's election campaign, saying that no one has disputed the story's veracity.
"Facebook and Twitter are not media platforms. They're propaganda machines," it wrote in an editorial.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley, in a letter to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, said the "seemingly selective" blocking "suggests partiality on the part of Facebook."
The New York Post report, he said, is "clearly relevant to the public interest" and reveals "potentially unethical activity by a candidate for president."
He also cited data showing that employees of Facebook and five other top tech firms have donated nearly US$5 million to Mr Biden's campaign and only US$239,000 to Trump.
"Twitter's censorship of this story is quite hypocritical, given its willingness to allow users to share less-well-sourced reporting critical of other candidates," Republican Senator Ted Cruz said in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
The New York Post story revived criticism from the past two years that Joe Biden, when he was in charge of the Obama administration's Ukraine policy, took actions to help his son and the Ukrainian energy company whose board Hunter Biden sat on, Burisma.
Mr Biden has repeatedly rejected such allegations. "I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings," he said flatly in September 2019.
The story focused on one email from April 2015, in which a Burisma board advisor named Vadym Pozharskyi thanks Hunter for inviting him to a Washington meeting with his father. But there was no indication when the meeting was scheduled or whether it ever happened.
"We have reviewed Joe Biden's official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place," the Biden campaign said.
Mr Trump's campaign, battling to overcome a steep polls deficit to Mr Biden ahead of the November 3 vote, quickly issued a campaign statement saying the emails were proof Mr Biden "lied to the American people" about his son's business dealings.