On Oct. 14, the New York Post published a story leaking information about Hunter Biden’s job in Ukraine at Burisma, an energy firm. During Hunter Biden’s time at Burisma, an advisor to the board allegedly sent him an email asking how Hunter Biden could “use [his] influence” in regards to helping the company in its struggles with the Ukranian bureaucracy. It also alleges that then Vice President Joe Biden had a meeting with a top executive from Burisma. The story has also brought back into the public light Joe Biden’s hand in getting Ukranian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin fired by threatening to withhold a loan to Ukraine. Shokin said he had “specific plans” to investigate corruption at Burisma, including Hunter Biden’s involvement.
The story was immediately met with doubt. This doubt was certainly justified; the man who leaked the laptop’s information kept changing his story, and the prosecutor Biden had fired may have actually been opposing the investigation into Burisma. The man who brought the information to the New York Post was Rudy Giuliani, who is certainly a dubious source vulnerable to misinformation. He himself admitted there was a “fifty-fifty” chance that he had contact with an undercover Russian intelligence agent. The real story, however, lies in how most of the mainstream media and big tech social media sites reacted to this leak.
The natural reaction to a situation like this would be to attempt to verify the veracity of the claims of the New York Post article. However, this was in no way the focus of the media’s response to the story. It was immediately deemed disinformation by many outlets, with some like Mother Jones jumping to the conclusion that it was “Russian disinformation.” Only brief questioning was given to the Biden campaign over the story, and the only response was that Joe Biden’s schedule did not contain a meeting with the Burisma executive. Detailed fact checking in coordination with the Biden campaign hasn’t been attempted and doesn’t seem likely.
Additionally, upon publication, the article was outright banned from being posted on Twitter, and its spread was heavily reduced on Facebook. The power big tech companies have in controlling political narratives is becoming absolutely immense. Consider the fact that an estimated 40 percent of Americans consider Facebook as their main source of news. If Facebook can control what information these tens of millions of Americans see, any bias in their decision-making process corrupts the national political consciousness immensely.
If the New York Post story shouldn’t be shared, when can leaks be shared? A leak of information is almost always going to appear dubious, which makes journalists’ role after its publication to pick it apart and attempt to verify or debunk it. Questionable truthfulness of content certainly hasn’t stopped big media outlets from spreading stories before; just look at the media hysteria surrounding the Steele Dossier.
Additionally, leaks must be reported on. The notorious DNC email leak from 2016 may have had dubious origins, but it was authentic. Leaks occupy a crucial role in the sphere of journalism; to neglect them is to hand over the flow of information to whatever powers reign at the moment. Twitter’s stated reason for refusing to allow sharing of the New York Post article was that it contained “hacked” information. This didn’t stop numerous other hacked information leaks — not to mention that the Hunter Biden emails weren’t hacked — so why did it stop them this time?
Even if we disregard all of these journalistic integrity concerns, preventing the New York Post article’s spread only boosts the right-wing narrative. The article itself probably wouldn’t have done much to impact the perception of Joe Biden and his electability, but in censoring it, they have done far more to create a negative public image for themselves. It allows the right-wing media to argue that big tech is committed to the Democratic Party and liberal establishment. In reality, the Silicon Valley giants are heavily tied to established institutions of both mainstream political parties, and the idea that Trump somehow represents an opponent to this status quo is laughable. However, by banning only articles like the New York Post’s, big tech only legitimizes the image of Trump as a brave fighter of the establishment.