The New York Post article making a range of allegations against Joe and Hunter Biden is being pushed heavily by sources supportive of President Donald Trump, while attracting extensive criticism for apparent inconsistencies and questions over the source and authenticity of the underlying documents. The article, published Wednesday morning, alleged that leaked emails showed Hunter Biden engaged in influence peddling around Ukraine in which he involved his father, the Democratic presidential candidate. The newspaper said it obtained the emails from a hard drive copied by a repair store owner from a water-damaged laptop bearing a Beau Biden Foundation sticker that was dropped off by an unidentified customer. The data was obtained via Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani after it was allegedly provided to Giuliani’s lawyer by the store owner. The report also claimed the FBI was investigating the emails’ contents. Disinformation researcher Thomas Rid identified several red flags: Most of the emails used as source material were published as images, making them harder to verify; two published in .pdf format had been created months after the laptop was first dropped off; and that the person who dropped off the laptop couldn’t be positively identified as Hunter Biden. Joe Biden’s campaign specifically denied a meeting detailed in the article ever took place. A group of journalists identified and interviewed the owner of the computer repair store, who gave several contradictory answers about how he obtained the hardware, how the FBI got involved, and the specific role of Giuliani. The owner also told reporters that he feared for his life, citing the previously debunked Seth Rich conspiracy.
Facebook and Twitter both said they were limiting the article’s spread, prompting allegations of censorship and even election interference from prominent conservative politicians and commentators. To evade the bans, a member of the Trump campaign tweeted the article’s text, while a group of Republican members of Congress uploaded the story to their website and encouraged followers to share that link around Twitter. The action taken by the platforms didn’t prevent the article from being publicly shared over 300,000 times on Facebook, and Trump’s campaign was publishing videos and ads referencing its contents, while Trump tweeted about it and spoke about it at a rally in Iowa.
This analysis is from our disinformation email briefings.
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