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After FBI misinformation alert, Facebook kept lid on Hunter Biden story: Zuckerberg

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ANKARA, TURKEY - In this photo illustration logo of Meta is displayed on a computer screen and apps icons on a mobile photo screen. (Hakan Nural - Anadolu Agency)
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Aug 29, 2022 - 09:22 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – In an interview, Mark Zuckerberg has admitted that Facebook suppressed a reportedly inaccurate story about then-US presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son in the runup to the fall 2020 US elections.

Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, this week told popular podcaster Joe Rogan that a New York Post story including alleged leaked emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop was algorithmically suppressed by Facebook after the FBI warned the social media website of efforts to spread election misinformation.

“When we take down something that we’re not supposed to, that’s the worst,” said Zuckergerg, although in the months since, the laptop story has not been borne out.

Major outlets such as The Washington Post and The New York Times have acknowledge that at least some of the emails on the laptop were genuine, but that most of the data could not be verified due to “sloppy handling.”

In the runup to the fall 2020 election, which Joe Biden won, then-President Donald Trump and his allies tried to make Hunter Biden into a major scandal, with Trump himself telling Ukraine’s president he would not send weapons unless an investigation of Hunter Biden was announced.

In fall 2016, just weeks before the previous presidential election, an FBI statement about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails that later came to nothing was widely credited with helping Trump narrowly defeat her. Analysts have also said Russian misinformation online and “data dumps” were pivotal in Trump’s victory.

Facebook has been accused of irresponsibly allowing the spreading of misinformation, including Russian propaganda to influence elections and viral racism that fueled the attempted 2017 genocide of minority Rohingya in Myanmar.

Zuckerberg told Rogan: “The background here is that the FBI came to us – some folks on our team – and was like ‘hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought 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 that’s similar to that’,”

He said the FBI did not warn Facebook about the Biden story in particular – only that Facebook thought it “fit that pattern.”

The New York Post alleged leaked emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop showed then-Vice President Joe Biden was helping his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.

The October 2020 story claimed that a laptop abandoned by Hunter Biden had details of him using his father’s influence — when Joe Biden was vice president in the Barack Obama administration — to seal a deal with a Ukrainian businessman.

Facebook and Twitter restricted sharing of the article, before reversing course amid allegations of censorship.

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