Peter and Eric draw a parallel between stories you wouldn’t ordinarily put together: Hunter Biden’s laptop and Dr. Anthony Fauci’s doubletalk. Connections await on the latest episode of the Drill Down podcast.
First, the online world is abuzz about journalist Matt Taibbi’s Twitter revelations. Twitter’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk, turned over thousands of internal documents to Taibbi to show what happened at the social media giant in 2020 when Twitter took extraordinary steps to censor any mention or links to the New York Post’s devastating expose on the contents of an abandoned laptop computer previously belonging to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
Taibbi shows how pressure brought from the Biden campaign and Democratic officials to censor the story and block the Post from its own Twitter account twenty days before the presidential election. Showing extensive excerpts from conversations between Twitter’s “trust and safety” executives, Taibbi details collusion between Twitter, the Biden campaign, and other Democratic elected officials.
So Peter and Eric ask: how does this connect to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s senior advisor on COVID pandemic policy? Fauci was deposed last week as part of a lawsuit by two state attorneys general, who accuse the federal government of threatening and colluding with social media companies to suppress COVID “misinformation.” The lawsuit accuses Dr. Anthony Fauci of colluding with social media companies, specifically Facebook, to suppress speech surrounding the pandemic. It details Fauci’s close collaboration with Facebook (Meta) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and alleges that collaboration occurred while Facebook was censoring certain pandemic and vaccine information. At the time, Twitter had a similar policy, as The Drill Down reported last week.
Conservatives have long argued that Twitter and Facebook are “in the tank” for Democrats, and Taibbi’s reporting certainly confirms there were multiple communications channels between the Biden campaign and the “trust and safety” executives at the time, and that they routinely deleted tweets as requested by the campaign. In one cited example Taibbi quotes a request from the “Biden team” to delete five tweets from the service (four of which another reporter later determined included nude pictures from the laptop) and the other fellow responds, “handled these.” In the case of the Post’s Hunter Biden story, they took steps previously reserved for cases of child pornography to prevent anyone on the service from tweeting so much as a link to the original story.
Fauci enjoyed similar deference, as social media companies dutifully labeled as “misinformation” any speech on their platforms that questioned the (often changing) masking and vaccine information Fauci pushed while serving as the Trump administration’s point man on COVID.
Peter makes a great point about Twitter’s assistance to the Biden campaign: by stopping the laptop story from being seen by Twitter users, Twitter provided what amounts to an in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign worth hundreds of millions of dollars. “Imagine if the Exxon Corporation had given the Trump campaign free gas to go around the country,” Peter says.
At least one opinion poll calculated that about 10 percent of those who voted for Joe Biden might have either stayed home or voted for Donald Trump had they known that Hunter Biden’s laptop computer revealed reserving a commission stake for “the Big Guy” in a business deal with a Chinese company.
One lesson that stands out in both stories is how little and how poor the information is when these decisions were made. Yoel Roth resigned as Twitter’s head of trust and safety a few weeks after Musk took control of the company. Back in 2020, Roth was instrumental in enforcing Twitter’s ban on the Post’s story. On a recent podcast, Roth described the mood at that time this way: “We didn’t know what to believe, we didn’t know what was true, there was smoke.” He explained that the story “set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 ‘hack and leak campaign’ alarm bells.” APT28 is another name for the Russian cybercrime group also called “Fancy Bear,” which has engaged in disinformation efforts in the past.
Fauci was first counseling against masks, then ordering their mandatory use, while claiming he was simply “following the science.” In his deposition, Fauci was questioned about claims he made, particularly concerning the “lab-leak hypothesis.” One of the parties to the suit, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, tweeted afterwards that Fauci “knew the Lab Leak theory had merit but it’d come back to him & sought to immediately discredit it.” Further, Fauci was not able, then or during the deposition, to cite a single study that showed masks were effective against COVID.
America relies on the free exchange of information. It is among our most treasured freedoms. The censorship of legitimate news stories and probing, skeptical questions poisons that free exchange. And when it is done by private companies under secret pressure from government bureaucrats and campaign hacks, it is not only un-American but a violation of the spirit if not the letter of American campaign finance laws.