With scant weeks left for the US to elect a new President, there has been yet another media expose that has triggered massive outrage and debate. This time, it is Democratic candidate Joe Biden who has come under the scanner, with a recent news report alleging that his son Hunter Biden had introduced the then Vice President to an Ukrainian businessman. This, the report adds citing emails, was a year before Joe Biden "pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company".
As per the New York Post, a 2015 email obtained by them shows that Hunter introduced Vadym Pozharskyi to his father. Hunter served on the board of an Ukrainian energy company called Burisma, and Pozharskyi was an adviser to the board. A year later, the report notes, the elder Biden had "pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company".
The news has drawn a mixed bag of reactions with many including President Trump congratulating the Post for their work, even as others cry foul. "Congratulations to the @nypost for having exposed the massive corruption surrounding Sleepy Joe Biden and our Country. He’s always been a corrupt politician. Disgraceful!" the President tweeted.
But while the article itself has drawn a wide gamut of reactions, the situation has only been exacerbated by the quick response it garnered from Twitter and Facebook. Soon after the article began making the rounds on social media, Twitter restricted the options for sharing the article and tagged the URL as being 'unsafe'.
While the company has justified their action stating that the Twitter rules had been violated, the move had drawn a sharp reaction from company founder Jack Dorsey.
"The images contained in the articles include personal and private information — like email addresses and phone numbers — which violate our rules," the Twitter Safety official handle had explained.
"Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable," Dorsey responded soon after.
Some accounts including verified handles belonging to US officials had been temporarily locked after they shared or weighed in in the article.
The problem however does not seem to be limited to Twitter. Andy Stone, a Policy Communications Director at Facebook on Wednesday said that he wanted to be clear that this story was "eligible to be fact checked by Facebook's third-party fact checking partners".
"In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform. This is part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation. We temporarily reduce distribution pending fact-checker review," he added.
Since these developments, the backlash has been immense, with many alleging that this was clear evidence of why the involvement of big tech in politics was a bad idea.
"This is a Big Tech information coup. This is digital civil war. I, an editor at The New York Post, one of the nation’s largest papers by circulation, can’t post one of our own stories that details corruption by a major-party presidential candidate, Biden," tweeted journalist Sohrab Ahmari.
"Is Big Tech now a Big Threat to the foundational principles of democratic values, freedom and liberty? Social Media platforms like @Facebook and @Twitter are being weaponised to subvert the fundamentals of democracies," wrote Kanchan Gupta.