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Election 2020

Facebook and Twitter’s censorship is an insult to democracy — they must stop or be broken up

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The great Twitter and Facebook masquerade is over.

Posing as disinterested and neutral media platforms, they have unmasked themselves as partisan protectors of Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden and propaganda advocates of the progressive cause. It is time that Twitter and Facebook be forced to halt their destructive practices or be broken up.

The two technology giants wield too much marketplace power in the ever-expanding social media universe. With power comes abuse.

This was on full display Wednesday when both Twitter and Facebook blocked access to a New York Post story offering stunning email evidence that Biden may have exploited his position as vice president to financially benefit his son, Hunter Biden.

If the Post’s evidence is authentic, as it appears to be, it would put a lie to the candidate’s previous denials that he engaged in influence peddling and knew nothing about his son’s business dealings.

Among the incriminating emails is a smoking-gun message from a top executive at the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma thanking Hunter for arranging a meeting with his father in Washington. The son was being paid a minimum of $50,000 a month by Burisma to sit on its board, even though he had absolutely no experience in either natural gas or Ukrainian affairs. The Post later pegged his full salary at $83,000 per month.

As Hunter was pocketing the cash, his company Burisma was under siege for suspected corrupt practices and searching desperately for a way to quash any government action against it. Emails from Burisma asked Hunter to tap his influence. Message received loud and clear.

When the Post’s story on all of this broke early Wednesday, the Biden campaign called a complete “lid” on in-person activities for the day. It wasn’t even 10 am as the nominee hid from reporters, retreated to his bunker, and instituted a phalanx strategy.

A carefully worded statement was issued insisting that Biden’s “official schedules” showed no such meeting with a Burisma executive. It was a classic non-denial denial. No one was buying it. By the end of the day, the campaign was conceding that an “informal” meeting might have occurred. In every other aspect, the core of the Post’s story and the veracity of the emails were not disputed by Biden.

It is obvious why Hunter Biden was being paid such an outlandish sum of money every month despite his utter lack of qualifications. Burisma was in deep trouble. It was searching for a powerful political figure who could exert pressure on Ukraine to leave the company alone. Joe Biden fit the bill perfectly. He was the vital point-person in the Obama Administration’s foreign policy directives to Ukraine.

Sure enough, the elder Biden intervened and later bragged about it on camera. He threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless the chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was fired from his job. Shokin is on record stating that he was poised to launch a criminal investigation of Burisma where Hunter Biden was employed. With his termination, all of that suddenly and magically vanished.

What inexorable conclusion can we draw from this? The evidence is compelling that Vice President Joe Biden used the powers of his high office and taxpayer money to take action that benefited a foreign company that was paying his son. Is that a crime? It could be. It certainly merits an investigation because it is a felony for a public official to confer a benefit to a foreign government (for example, a billion dollars in financial assistance) in exchange for something of value to himself or a relative.

While it is true that not all acts of wrongdoing constitute crimes, the facts as presented by the Post deserve scrutiny by both the media and voters who are poised to cast –and, in some states, have already cast– their ballots in a presidential election. Isn’t the electorate entitled to more information, not less? The answer is a resounding yes.

In his pointed attacks on Trump, Biden has made character and corruption an issue. So, too, have many Democrats and the press. Shouldn’t Biden be held to the same standard of fitness and rectitude that he demands of his opponent? Of course he should. Biden has unwittingly invited the scrutiny he now deserves.

And yet, Twitter, Facebook, and many in the media have sought to suppress the evidence reported by the Post. This is where the story gets even more complicated, so bear with me.

The damning emails come from a laptop computer that almost certainly belongs to Hunter Biden. It was dropped off at a repair shop in Delaware and never retrieved by its owner. It is filled with communications sent and received by Hunter Biden, as well as photographs of him and what the Post describes as a raunchy video of Hunter smoking crack and having sex with an unidentified woman.

In the process of fixing the computer, the shop owner discovered the material, grew alarmed about its contents, and notified the FBI. Armed with a subpoena issued by a Delaware grand jury, the bureau seized the laptop and its hard drive in December of last year. What followed was conspicuous (if not disturbing) silence. No meaningful action was taken.

Concerned that evidence of wrongdoing involving a presidential candidate was being buried as the election draws near, the shop owner gave a copy of the hard drive to President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. From there, the Post gained access and reported its contents.

Almost immediately, Facebook initiated a blackout maneuver “reducing” the ability of users to distribute the Post article and its supporting email evidence. Facebook described the story as “potentially harmful” and it hadn’t verified its legitimacy. In making the announcement, the tech company’s policy communications manager –a long-time Democrat operative– was enunciating an absurd rule.

Nearly every major story is “potentially harmful” to someone. If that is the standard, Facebook would have no media traffic. Moreover, since when does Facebook verify the legitimacy of articles that are damaging to President Trump? The answer is never. Think of all the “collusion” stories that were peddled by major news organizations that were unverified and wrong. Facebook didn’t restrict or ban those.

More recently, Facebook did not restrict or ban access to a New York Times “potentially harmful” story on Trump’s taxes that was based on unnamed sources and documents the newspaper refused to produce.

Yet, the New York Post is not permitted to post its story on Biden based on documents it actually did produce. This is nothing more than selective and dangerous censorship motivated by political bias. It is also an effort to influence an election by the withholding of relevant information.

Twitter also banned the Post story, claiming that it violated its “Hacked Materials Policy.” Except the material wasn’t hacked at all. Hacking is unauthorized access. The repair shop was granted authorized access to fix the water-damaged laptop. Thereafter, the device was abandoned without compensation, giving the repair shop constructive ownership.

Twitter’s excuse for repressing the Post story is inane. It disingenuously declared that its policy “prohibits content obtained without authorization.” Really? Twitter must have forgotten the countless stories it has allowed that were anonymously sourced from leaked classified documents that were illegally obtained and disseminated. Twitter should do a Google search to refresh its recollection.

The unconscionable actions of these two tech giants has produced such outrage that it only managed to elevate –not suppress– the Post’s story about Biden. While there is some satisfaction in that boomerang effect, there is no doubt that both Twitter and Facebook will continue their partisan manipulation of information until they are stopped.

Congress is now duty-bound to impose new restrictions on such marketplace abuse. At the same time, the Justice Department must consider levying severe penalties or, preferably, breaking up both companies under anti-trust laws. Too much power and little accountability is a recipe for destructive behavior that is anathema to our cherished freedoms.

Like a witness who incriminates himself, the politically driven decisions by Facebook and Twitter are the best evidence against them.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I own Facebook shares that I bought years ago during its initial public offering. I have confidence in the service it provides, but I have no confidence in its Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. The same goes for Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey. Neither of them should be at the helm of the powerful platforms they created.

Changes at the top of these important companies are long overdue.

Our government has the power to make it happen.

Does it have the courage to act?