According to Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter, who acknowledged this week that the Hunter Biden laptop story should not have been censored on the platform in the heat of the 2020 presidential election, the laptop from hell was apparently a legitimate news story after all.
As if that weren’t shocking enough, on Wednesday, Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, appeared to confirm as much in a reply tweet he sent to another user, without providing any additional context, that the social media site has “interfered” in prior elections.
Hunter Biden laptop story suppression by Twitter
The one naturally has a lot to do with the other. However, let’s take a brief detour first.
Remember how the late-breaking discovery of the laptop belonging to Biden’s son—a laptop on which emails were found that exposed all manner of shady dealings—was exploited by President Trump’s 2020 campaign? Among them was one that appeared to show Hunter Biden attempting, as part of his father’s business dealings, to connect a Ukrainian executive.
The New York Post broke the story first, and one inference was that the older Biden’s spotless reputation in the media wasn’t all that it seemed to be. The mainstream media, however, went into an all-out lockdown on the laptop story, memory-holing it as much as they could, and justifying it all by citing an open letter signed by US intelligence officials who insisted that the Hunter laptop discovery appeared to bear the hallmarks of Russian disinformation. This was due to revelations of election tampering in 2016, which stung the media.
However, it was a largely speculative, “best-guess” letter written by “experts” who had no personal experience with the situation and were merely commenting as observers.
So comprehensive was the media blackout, it even included aid from social networks like Twitter. At one point in the news cycle, Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to share the Post’s reporting of the laptop story on her own Twitter account — and the attempt resulted in Twitter temporarily locking McEnany out of her account.
Twitter eventually clarified its position on not allowing users to share the Post’s article, pointing to the platform’s stance against the sharing of “hacked” material. But that was very much a curious defense for censoring the Hunter Biden story — because, after all, Twitter didn’t have a problem letting people tweet about the Snowden NSA revelations, which were also derived from stolen material.
‘We didn’t know what to believe’
Could the 2020 election have been affected by a thorough and honest airing of the information discovered on the laptop? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it would have been morally correct for Twitter to block the article and go to the tremendous lengths of forbidding its users from even discussing it.
In an interview this week with journalist Kara Swisher at the Knight Foundation conference, Roth said, “We didn’t know what to believe, we didn’t know what was true, there was smoke — and ultimately for me, it didn’t reach a place where I was comfortable removing this content from Twitter.”
However, it triggered each and every one of my meticulously tuned APT28 “hack and leak campaign” alarm bells.
Absolutely, it did. By the way, this is the same person who sent tweets like the one below (about former Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway) while working on trust and safety issues at Twitter under then-CEO Jack Dorsey: “Today on Meet The Press, we’re speaking with Joseph Goebbels about the first 100 days… What I hear each time Kellyanne appears on a news program.
That sounds like a person who could be relied upon to maintain objectivity during the tumultuous Trump-Biden 2020 presidential campaign, right?
Oh, and by the way: After The New York Times finally published President Trump’s tax returns, Roth did nothing to stop the coverage that was widely shared on Twitter about them. which, I should add, occurred during the final hours of the 2020 campaign.
Trump, of course, did not give the publication access to his tax returns. He also didn’t approve of their release. Nevertheless, against his will, page after page after page of his private business dealings from before he was president were made public; news reports about this were widely disseminated on Facebook and Twitter.
Roth, for his part, ultimately made the decision to retire from Twitter and join the exodus of executives who had grown weary of Musk. This week, he stated that one of his limitations was that if Twitter began to be governed by dictatorial decree rather than by policy, he would no longer be needed in his position or performing the work he does.
Whatever you may think of Elon – I have yet to see him lock people out of their accounts for sharing a news story he doesn’t like.