(LifeSiteNews) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation told social media companies to brace for impending misinformation shortly before the publication of an accurate story about a discarded laptop belonging to President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed Thursday in an interview with podcaster Joe Rogan.
“Basically, the background here is the FBI, I think, basically came to us — some folks on our team and was like, ‘Hey, um, just so you know, like, you should be on high alert,’” Zuckerberg recalled to Rogan. “There was the — we thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. We have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump of — that’s similar to that. So just be vigilant.’”
“We just kind of thought, Hey look, if the FBI, which, you know, I still view as a legitimate institution in this country, it’s a very professional law enforcement,” Zuckerberg continued. “They come to us and tell us that we need to be on guard about something. Then I wanna take that seriously.”
BREAKING: Mark Zuckerberg tells Joe Rogan that Facebook algorithmically censored the Hunter Biden laptop story for 7 days based on a general request from the FBI to restrict election misinformation. pic.twitter.com/llTA7IqGa1
— Minds💡 (@minds) August 25, 2022
The Facebook chief went on to stress that Facebook handled the story with a slightly lighter touch than one of its chief social media competitors: “What Twitter did is they said, ‘You can’t share this at all.’ Um, we didn’t do that. If something’s reported to us as potentially, um, misinformation, important misinformation, we also use this third party fact-checking program, cause we don’t wanna be deciding what’s true and false.”
In October 2020, the New York Post released a series of bombshell reports about a laptop Hunter had abandoned at a Delaware computer repair shop, which contained scores of emails and texts detailing how the Biden family made millions of dollars through Hunter’s facilitation of meetings between his father, the Vice President of the United States under Barack Obama, and business interests around the world. Democrats tried to dismiss the story as “misinformation,” and their allies in traditional and social media worked to suppress word from getting out.
The Biden camp never specifically denied the authenticity of the material, but its allies, including Facebook and Twitter, took steps to suppress the story under the pretext of “misinformation” and “hacked materials,” despite abundant corroboration.
More than a year after Biden’s victory over former President Donald Trump, left-wing media outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post began to admit the authenticity of the material from the laptop. But by then the suppression of the story had paid off; a survey of key swing states conducted by the conservative Media Research Center weeks and The Polling Company after the election found that 45.1% of Biden voters in those states had been unaware of the Hunter scandal, and that 9.4% of them would not have voted for Biden had they known.
In mid-2021, it was also revealed that Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who had been hired by Trump, agreed in the summer of 2020 to hold off on seeking search warrants and issuing grand jury subpoenas related to Hunter’s foreign business dealings and potential tax violations, and that he specifically did so on the advice of unidentified “officials involved in the case” who wanted to avoid the “possibility that the investigation would become a months-long campaign issue.”
As a result, the general public was kept in the dark about the fact that the federal government knew the story being maligned as foreign propaganda was in fact true.
That the federal government asked social media companies to censor the story (albeit, per Zuckerberg’s account, in a roundabout way likely meant to establish plausible deniability) also raises potential legal issues with the censorship. The Biden administration has admitted to asking social media companies to censor disfavored content in other contexts.
Opponents of such actions have argued that when government asks private entities to restrict private speech, that changes the restriction from a private activity to a form of quasi-state censorship prohibited by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Author Vivek Ramaswamy has argued in The Wall Street Journal that this argument has a sound basis in Supreme Court precedent that government “may not induce, encourage, or promote private persons to accomplish what it is constitutionally forbidden to accomplish” (Norwood v. Harrison, 1973), and that state-issued immunity (such as the controversial Section 230), threats of prosecution or “adverse regulatory action,” “willful participa[tion] in joint activity,” or even just “significant encouragement” can suffice to turn private censorship decisions into the functional equivalent of state action.
UCLA law professor and prominent libertarian Eugene Volokh has written that while such claims can theoretically survive, as a practical matter they are a “long shot” in court because they require “powerful evidence of government coercion.” Many conservatives hope that uncovering such evidence will be a priority of Republicans should they retake the federal government.