The Federal Election Commission denied Republican allegations that Twitter violated election law in October by blocking people from posting a link to an unsubstantiated New York Post article about his son. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Hunter Biden, in a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns.
The FEC determined that Twitter’s actions in relation to Hunter Biden’s article were taken for valid commercial reasons, not political purposes, and were therefore authorized, according to a document outlining the decision by Hunter Biden. The New York Times.
The commission’s ruling, which came out last month after the closure and will soon be made public, provides further flexibility for social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to control what’s going on. shared on their platform in connection with federal elections.
The blocking of the Hunter Biden article sparked a wave of conservative criticism in October and led to allegations that the tech company improperly supported the Biden presidential campaign, including complaints The Republican National Committee’s official complaint alleges that Twitter’s actions are “illegal in-praise donations” to the campaign.
But the FEC disagreed. The commission said Twitter had “credibly explained” that blocking the publication of the article was a commercial decision, and that the move was in line with existing policies regarding hacked material, according to a statement. factual and legal analysis” provided to the parties involved in the complaint.
Twitter actually reversed course within a day of its decision to block distribution of the article by Hunter Biden, and its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, called the initial move a “mistake”.
The FEC’s official vote on the case – the committee is split evenly between three Democrats and three Republicans – has yet to be made public, nor have any additional statements written. by the trustees. Such statements often accompany the closing of cases and may provide further insight into the committee’s reasoning.
In addition to dismissing the RNC’s complaint, the FEC has denied other allegations that Twitter violated election laws by “shadow banning” Republican users or apparently limiting the visibility of their posts. without giving an explanation; block other anti-Biden content; and labeled former President Donald J. Trump’s tweets with warnings about their accuracy. The FEC has denied those allegations, writing that they are “vague, speculative and not supported by available information”.
Under Mr. Trump’s leadership, Republicans have grown increasingly at odds with the nation’s biggest tech and social media companies, accusing Silicon Valley giants of giving Democrats an edge. on their platform.
Twitter initially said that it had blocked the link to the Hunter Biden article because of its current policy against the distribution of hacked materials. The article is based on material provided by Trump allies who have sought to demoralize Mr Biden for months against his son, and focuses on the Bidens’ involvement in Ukraine.
But Mr. Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, admit in October, it was “unacceptable” to block “context-free” links.
Shortly after, Twitter said it was changing its policy on hacked materials and would allow similar content to be posted, including labels to provide context about the source of the information.
The FEC documents reveal one reason why Twitter is particularly suspicious of the Hunter Biden article. The company’s head of website integrity, according to the FEC, said Twitter had “received an official warning throughout 2020 from federal law enforcement that ‘bad state organizations’ have hack and release material related to political campaigns and Hunter Biden could be the target of such an activity. “
The FEC said it found “no information that Twitter coordinated” its decisions with the Biden campaign. In a sworn statement, Twitter’s head of public policy said she was not aware of any contact with the Biden team before the company made its decision, according to the FEC document.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Emma Vaughn, an RNC spokeswoman, said the committee is “considering its options to appeal this disappointing decision from the FEC”.