In moves blasted by President Trump, Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday took steps to prevent users from spreading a controversial and factually disputed New York Post article regarding Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The article, titled “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad,” is based on a purported email to Hunter Biden, retrieved from a copy of a hard drive that was supposedly abandoned at a computer repair shop.
The email, from a Burisma adviser, supposedly said, "thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father.”
Biden's campaign disputes that a meeting took place, according to Politico.
Trump's campaign has repeatedly insinuated that Biden pressured the Ukrainian
government to fire the country's top prosecutor,
because he was investigating Burisma.
In fact, the Obama administration -- as well as other international organizations -- wanted Shokin fired for failing to investigate corruption in the country.
The Post said it obtained a copy of Hunter Biden's hard drive from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who allegedly obtained the hard drive after the owner of a computer repair store provided it to Giuliani's lawyer.
That sequence of events in itself raised questions about the authenticity of the purported email.
Facebook's Andy Stone said Wednesday the company was limiting distribution of the article pending review by fact-checkers.
Twitter intercepted users who tried to click on the Post story with a warning that they were attempting to visit a page that might violate Twitter's policies for several reasons, including that the material might be misleading.
The company later reportedly said it put up the roadblock because it doesn't allow users to distribute material obtained through hacking.
Trump criticized Facebook and Twitter for their decisions to restrict the piece.
“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," Trump tweeted.
"REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” he added.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes online companies from liability for their decisions to remove or restrict posts by users. But even without that law, Facebook and Twitter would have a First Amendment right to remove material.
Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), a prominent critic of Silicon Valley, also blasted the social media companies.
“.@Facebook explain your decision to censor the sourced reporting of @nypost,” the Republican Senator from Missouri tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
He later said it was “amazing” that Twitter had flagged the Post's article as “unsafe.” “You almost get the idea #bigtech wants to buy this election,” he tweeted.