Conservatives blasted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for stating that his social network suppressed reporting about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.
During an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast Thursday, Zuckerberg explained Facebook’s handling of a report alleging that the laptop contained evidence that then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son was engaged in influence peddling. Zuckerberg’s comments renewed anger by conservatives who’ve accused law enforcement, mainstream press and social media of trying to quash information damaging to President Biden.
“This isn’t just insane, it’s election interference,” Republican Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia tweeted. He added that Zuckerberg should be required to testify under oath before the House Oversight Committee.
The controversy began when the New York Post published a story in October 2020, a month before the presidential election in which Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump. The right-leaning paper reported that computer repair shop owner John Paul Mac Isaac said Hunter Biden had dropped off a damaged laptop in 2019 and never returned to pick it up.
The laptop contained a 2015 email from Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, to Hunter Biden seeking a meeting with his father, who was then vice president, according to the Post.
The story was ignored by other media outlets and Twitter blocked links to it from being shared on the platform. The controversy was renewed this spring when The New York Times confirmed the existence of emails and that Hunter Biden was being investigated by federal law enforcement.
Zuckerberg told Rogan that Facebook took a “different path than Twitter” but still limited sharing of the story after the FBI warned him that it was part of a Russian disinformation campaign intended to sway the 2020 election.
“We don’t want to be deciding what’s true and false,” Zuckerberg said. “And for the—I think it was five or seven days when it was basically being determined whether it was false—the distribution on Facebook was decreased. But people are still allowed to share so you can still share it, you can still consume it.”
Zuckerberg said the story appeared less in Facebook’s news feed and “fewer people saw it and would have otherwise.” He didn’t say by how much, but told Rogan it was “meaningful.”
“Mark Zuckerberg flippantly admitting that Facebook censored the TRUE Hunter Biden laptop story (supposedly at the request of the FBI) should alarm every American regardless of their political party,” GOP Representative August Pfluger of Texas said in a tweet. “The truth matters. Free speech matters. We deserve answers.”
Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri took to Twitter to renew criticism of the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Russia’s actions during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, adding that the FBI “preemptively warned Facebook off Hunter Biden laptop reporting.”
Dave Arnold, spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company Meta, referred Newsweek to a series of tweets responding to the criticism of Zuckerberg.
Meta said on Twitter that Facebook “lifted the demotion” of the story after seven days when it wasn’t rated false by independent fact-checkers.
The company also referred to remarks Zuckerberg made to the Senate Commerce Committee in 2020 when he said he had not been specifically warned about the New York Post story by the FBI but instead had been told to be on heightened alert about election interference.
Correction 8/26/2022, 3:35:p.m. ET: This article was updated to reflect that Mark Zuckerberg didn’t disclose new information in his interview with Joe Rogan.