Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson asked both CEOs during the inquest if their companies had evidence that the New York Post’s report on the emails was part of Russian disinformation efforts. The Post ran two stories in mid-October outlining emails by Hunter Biden to Ukrainian executives and Chinese businessmen regarding the Biden family’s dealings.
The Twitter head answered in the negative and later explained that the social media platform blocked the Post’s story because it allegedly “fell afoul of [its] hacking materials policy.” Dorsey added: We judged in the moment that it looked like … hacked materials. We updated our policy and our enforcement within 24 hours.”
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg answered that Facebook “relied heavily” on intelligence and alerts provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – both through public testimony and private briefings. He added: “It’s not up to us either to determine whether it’s Russian interference nor whether it’s true.”
The allegations of Russian disinformation stemmed from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who earlier suggested that the claims of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani about and the Post’s stories on Hunter Biden’s emails were a “smear from the Kremlin.” Schiff, a Democrat, also pushed the idea that President Donald Trump collaborated with the Russians to undermine the 2016 presidential elections.
Hunter’s father Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, has denied the Post’s reports and repeated Schiff’s claim during the Oct. 23 final presidential debate. However, Biden’s camp has neither disputed nor confirmed the authenticity of the emails.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe repudiated Schiff’s allegations, later telling Fox News that he received no information that the stories about Hunter Biden’s emails were part of a Moscow disinformation plot. The FBI said it had nothing to add to Ratcliffe’s findings.
Dorsey and Zuckerberg's testimonies arose from their platforms’ perceived censorship of users who shared the Post’s articles. A Twitter spokesperson told the Post Oct. 15 that it had to delete the tweet with the link to its story before it regains full posting rights.
Meanwhile, Facebook Communications Director Andy Stone said in an Oct. 14 tweet that the social media site would “reduce [the stories’] distribution on [its] platform.” Stone also mentioned that the Post’s articles are “eligible to be fact-checked by Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners.” (Related: The evidence is clear: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey must be arrested and charged with racketeering and treason.)
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who also attended the hearing, slammed Twitter’s “egregious” conduct and focused on the social media platform’s censorship of the Post’s stories on Hunter Biden. Cruz set his sights on Dorsey: “Who elected you [and] put you in charge of what the media is allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?”
Cruz follows other Republican lawmakers who have been vocal in removing Big Tech’s censorship powers.
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley previously called for an inquiry on Facebook’s censorship of the Post’s article on Hunter Biden’s emails. Hawley tweeted Oct. 15 in response to Stone’s earlier post: “I want to know on what grounds you are actively censoring a news report about potentially illegal corruption [by Joe Biden.”
Hawley then posted a formal letter addressed to Zuckerberg ordering the Facebook CEO to explain the platform’s “decision to censor the sourced reporting of the Post.” The senator ended by asking: “Did [the] Biden campaign ask you to do so?”