Internal Twitter deliberations surrounding the censorship of the New York Post‘s reporting on Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” reveal the company’s management engaging in willful ignorance of the facts of the story in order to justify censoring it on the platform.
Matt Taibbi, the journalist tasked by Elon Musk to reveal the internal communications, explains that Twitter management at the time used the company’s hacked materials policy “as an excuse” to squelch the Post’s reporting, but knew it “wasn’t going to hold.” The reason it “wasn’t going to hold” was because the Post explained that the reporting was based on a hard drive abandoned at a computer repair shop, not “hacked material,” and produced a federal subpoena given to the repair-shop owner to bolster the claim.
Former Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth messaged colleague Vijaya Gadde, “The policy basis is hacked materials — though, as discussed, this is an emerging situation where the facts remain unclear. Given the SEVERE risks here and lessons of 2016, we’re erring on the side of including a warning and preventing this content from being amplified.”
Another member of management, Brandon Borrman, then asks, “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?”
Jim Baker, Twitter’s then-Deputy Legal Counsel and former senior member of the FBI, adds, “[We] need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked. At this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that conclusion is warranted.”
Baker then admits, per the Post‘s reporting in the story in question, that there is evidence “indicating that the computer was either abandoned and/or the owner consented to allow the repair shop to access it for at least some purposes.”
But during the time this communication was underway, Twitter did not contact the New York Post to inquire about whether the reporting was based on hacked material, and the story in question explained exactly how the Post obtained the material it was reporting on.
In the story headlined, “Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad,” published on October 14, 2020, it says that the correspondence between Burisma board member Vadym Pozharskyi and Hunter was “contained in a massive trove of data recovered from a laptop computer.”
The Post published that it had the entire hard drive, which was originally obtained by a computer repair shop in Delaware.
“The computer was dropped off at a repair shop in Biden’s home state of Delaware in April 2019, according to the store’s owner,” the Post wrote in the initial story.
The customer who brought in the water-damaged MacBook Pro for repair never paid for the service or retrieved it or a hard drive on which its contents were stored, according to the shop owner, who said he tried repeatedly to contact the client.
The shop owner couldn’t positively identify the customer as Hunter Biden, but said the laptop bore a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation, named after Hunter’s late brother and former Delaware attorney general.
Photos of a Delaware federal subpoena given to The Post show that both the computer and hard drive were seized by the FBI in December, after the shop’s owner says he alerted the feds to their existence.
But before turning over the gear, the shop owner says, he made a copy of the hard drive and later gave it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello.
Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, told The Post about the existence of the hard drive in late September and Giuliani provided The Post with a copy of it on Sunday.
The Post also published an image of a federal subpoena, showing the computer was in the FBI’s possession, after being turned in by the computer repair shop owner, who has now been publicly identified as John Paul Mac Isaac.