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FEC clears Twitter of wrongdoing for Hunter Biden story censorship, says article was banned for 'a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose'

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Federal Election Commission has cleared Twitter of any wrongdoing pertaining to its censorship last year of the New York Post's bombshell Hunter Biden laptop story, the New York Times reported Monday.

What are the details?

According to a document outlining the decision obtained by the newspaper, the commission dismissed a Republican National Committee complaint that the social media platform violated election laws by suppressing distribution of the article based on political motivations.

"The FEC determined that Twitter's actions regarding the Hunter Biden article had been undertaken for a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, and were thus allowable," the Times reported.

Twitter had gone to great lengths to censor the story, blocking shares of it on the platform, barring users from linking it in direct messages, and suspending notable accounts that shared the story.

Yet the commission reportedly concluded that Twitter "credibly explained" that its decision to suppress the story was a commercial one by arguing that its censorship actions fell under an existing "hacked materials" policy.

The vague policy — which has since been updated — stated that the platform would not "permit the use of [its] services to directly distribute content obtained through hacking that contains private information, may put people in physical harm or danger, or contains trade secrets."

At the time, many correctly pointed out that the tech giant enforced the policy inconsistently. For example, the tech giant never suppressed the distribution of a Times report on former President Trump's tax records obtained against Trump's will.

What's the background?

The New York Post story, which broke only weeks before the 2020 election, offered a glimpse into the Biden family's allegedly nefarious overseas business activity and portrayed then-candidate Joe Biden in a negative light. Details about the business dealings were discovered on a laptop formerly belonging to Hunter Biden, which Biden allegedly abandoned at a computer repair shop in Delaware.

Following fierce backlash and social media outrage, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even admitted his company's decision to censor first and fact-check later was wrong.

"Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great," he tweeted at the time. "And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we're blocking: unacceptable."

Anything else?

According to the New York Times, the FEC review also dismissed other allegations related to Twitter's censorship behavior during the 2020 election season. Here's more from the report:

In addition to rejecting the R.N.C. complaint, the F.E.C. dismissed other allegations that Twitter had violated election laws by "shadow banning" Republican users, or appearing to limit the visibility of their posts without providing an explanation; suppressing other anti-Biden content; and labeling former President Donald J. Trump's tweets with warnings about their accuracy. The F.E.C. rejected those accusations, writing that they were "vague, speculative and unsupported by the available information."

The Times noted that the FEC board — which is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans — issued its ruling last month behind closed doors. The full report will be made public soon.

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