FEC: Twitter Blocking the Hunter Biden Story Wasn’t Election Interference
Twitter is off the hook for Hunter Biden article removals. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has dismissed a complaint that Twitter illegally blocked links to an article about Hunter Biden last fall. The complaint was filed by the Republican National Committee (RNC), which alleged that Twitter had temporarily blocked links to a New York Post article about Joe Biden’s son in order to benefit then-presidential candidate Biden in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
“The RNC is weighing its options for appealing this disappointing decision from the FEC,” said spokesperson Emma Vaughn.
Tweets about the Post article—an apocryphal tale of Hunter Biden’s lost laptop and hard drives being discovered with incriminating evidence about his father on them—were temporarily blocked by Twitter, which said they violated its “Hacked Materials Policy.” Soon after, Twitter reversed course and announced that it had revised the policy. “Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix,” posted Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on October 16.
The debacle did not violate federal election law, says the FEC now, in a case that has important ramifications for future quandaries over social media companies and content related to elections or concerning political candidates.
“The election commission determined that Twitter’s actions regarding the Hunter Biden article had been undertaken for a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, and were thus allowable,” The New York Times reports, noting that the FEC also dismissed an election-related complaint against Snapchat yesterday:
… in a second case involving a social media platform, the commission used the same reasoning to side with Snapchat and reject a complaint from the Trump campaign. The campaign had argued that the company provided an improper gift to Mr. Biden by rejecting Mr. Trump from its Discover platform in the summer of 2020, according to another commission document.
The election commission’s twin rulings, which were made last month behind closed doors and are set to become public soon, protect the flexibility of social media and tech giants like Twitter, Facebook, Google and Snapchat to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.
In both instances, Republicans argued that private tech companies couldn’t control content on their own platforms as they saw fit. But the First Amendment says otherwise. Again and again, courts have ruled that social media platforms can suspend users—including politicians—for violating their policies.
Social media companies are not required to be neutral arbiters of political speech, nor required to platform any particular type of speech (despite what unconstitutional new laws in states like Texas and Florida say). For this, we can thank the First Amendment, which protects private actors from having to block or carry speech by government entities.
That protection is something both Republicans and Democrats, as well as everyone else, should be glad about. Digital entities
Article from Latest – Reason.com