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Fmr. Twitter exec admits censoring Hunter Biden laptop story was ‘mistake’

Hunter Biden (Center for Strategic & International Studies/WikiCommons)
December 01, 2022

A former head of Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, who played a role in suppressing reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop on the platform ahead of the 2020 election, admitted that the censorship action was a mistake.

In October of 2020, just weeks before the presidential election between then-President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the New York Post reported on a laptop allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. The laptop contained communications between Hunter and his foreign business partners. One of the business emails indicating Hunter introduced a partner on a Ukrainian gas company to his then his father in 2015, when Joe Biden was serving as the vice president under Barack Obama.

Joe Biden had denied having knowledge about his son’s business activities, but questions persisted about his potential knowledge and involvement in those business dealings throughout the 2020 presidential election cycle. In a 2018 interview, Joe Biden described withholding U.S. aid to Ukraine in 2016 as the vice president until the Ukrainian government fired a prosecutor. The details of that firing incident lined up with the Ukrainian government’s decision to fire Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who was then tasked with investigating Burisma.

After the New York Post published its reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop, Twitter locked the newspaper’s account and blocked users from sharing links to the Biden laptop articles.

In an interview with CNN’s Kara Swisher on Tuesday at a Knight Foundation event, former Twitter executive Yoel Roth said he had suspicions that the New York Post’s initial reporting on Joe Biden’s son’s alleged laptop was part of a Russian “hack and leak” operation, but he never felt comfortable with censoring the reporting on Twitter.

“It’s widely reported that I personally directed the suppression of the Hunter Biden story,” Roth told Swisher. “That is not true. It is absolutely, unequivocally untrue.”

Roth said the New York Post’s explanation for how it came in possession of Hunter Biden’s laptop “set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 ‘hack and leak campaign’ alarm bells.” APT28 refers to a suspected Russian government-sponsored hacking group sometimes known as “Cozy Bear.”

When Swisher asked if Roth thought Twitter’s eventual decision to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story was a mistake, Roth replied, “In my opinion, yes.”

Jack Dorsey, who was CEO of Twitter during the Biden laptop incident, admitted after the 2020 election that censoring the New York Post’s reporting was a “total mistake,” albeit a mistake he described as a “process error.”

Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, said on Wednesday that Twitter has “interfered in elections” and vowed to make the platform “far more effective, transparent and even-handed” going forward.

According to a Media Research Center poll conducted in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, 16 percent of Biden voters said they would not have voted for Biden if they had known about the Biden family’s foreign business dealings – suggesting the public’s awareness of the Hunter Biden laptop story could have changed the outcome of the election.

Since the 2020 election, multiple news outlets have authenticated materials on the Biden laptop.

After winning control of the House of Representatives earlier this month, Republican lawmakers announced plans to investigate President Biden and his family’s business dealings. The investigation will look into whether President Biden is compromised by foreign actors and whether the Biden family engaged in influence peddling.