Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, told podcast host Joe Rogan in a recent interview that the company actively reduced the reach of social media posts referencing the story about Hunter Biden's laptop in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.
On the Aug. 25 episode of "The Joe Rogan Experience," Zuckerberg said that the move was in response to a general advisory from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to some Facebook staffers to be vigilant for Russian propaganda before the 2020 election.
Zuckerberg's remarks were in response to Rogan's question: "How do you handle things when there's a big news item that's controversial, like there was a lot of attention on Twitter during the election because of the Hunter Biden laptop story?"
In response to Rogan's question, Zuckerberg said: "The background here is the FBI I think basically came to some folks on our team [and] were like, 'Hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought that 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 similar to that, so just be vigilant.'”
Zuckerberg said that the protocol Facebook took was "different from Twitter’s."
"What Twitter did [was] they said ‘you can’t share this at all.’ We didn’t do that," Zuckerberg said, referring to the Hunter Biden laptop story. "What we do is, if something is reported to us as potentially misinformation, important misinformation—we also do third-party fact-checking programs because we don’t want to be deciding what’s true and false—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 were still allowed to share it. So you can still share it, you could still consume it."
Comments from Zuckerberg went viral on Twitter, after which Meta issued statements on the platform saying the story is not new.
"The FBI has provided companies with foreign threat indicators to help them protect their platforms and customers from abuse by foreign malign influence actors," the statement continues. "The FBI will continue to work closely with federal, state, local, and private sector partners to keep the public informed of potential threats, but the FBI cannot ask, or direct, companies to take action on information received."
FBI Allegedly Obtained Hunter's LaptopThe laptop of President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, became the subject of multiple media reports in October 2020 after the New York Post broke the story. According to the reports, content found on the laptop showed Joe Biden's as well as his brother James's and son Hunter's involvement in various overseas business ventures in countries such as Ukraine, Russia, China, and other countries—including during the time Joe Biden was vice president during the Obama administration—and showed payments received in connection with their involvement. The laptop also contained other content, including pornographic images and illicit data.
The Hunter Biden laptop story was quickly censored and suppressed on various social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. Legacy media outlets initially dismissed the news as Russian disinformation and did not acknowledge the authenticity of the laptop until two years later, when outlets including The Washington Post and The New York Times published articles verifying and acknowledging the authenticity of the laptop.
'No One Was Able to Say it Was False': ZuckerbergZuckerberg explained to Rogan that Facebook ranked the posts about Hunter Biden's laptop in the newsfeed "a little bit less, so fewer people saw it than would have otherwise." Zuckerberg did not quantify the level at which Facebook decreased the distribution of the posts, but said that "it's meaningful."
"But basically, a lot of people were still able to share it," he told Rogan. "We got a lot of complaints that that was the case. You know, obviously, this was a hyper-political issue. So depending on what side of the political spectrum, you either think we didn’t censor it enough or censored way too much.
"But we weren’t sort of as black and white about it as Twitter. We just kind of thought, hey look, if the FBI—which I still view as a legitimate institution in this country, it’s a very professional law enforcement—they come to us and tell us that we need to be on guard about something, then I want to take that seriously."
When asked whether the FBI specified that Facebook needed to "be on guard" about the Hunter Biden laptop story, Zuckerberg responded: "No. I don’t remember if it was that specifically. But it was, it basically fit the pattern."
Rogan asked whether there was any "regret" about suppressing content that turned out be factual, Zuckerberg said: "Yeah, yeah. I mean, it sucks."
"It turned out after the fact, I mean, the fact-checkers looked into it, no one was able to say it was false," he told Rogan. "So it basically had this period where it was getting less distribution ... it sucks though I think in the same way that probably 'having to go through like a criminal trial but being proven innocent in the end' sucks. It still sucks that you had to go through a criminal trial, but at the end you're free.
"I don't know if the answer would've been don't do anything or don't have any process, I think the process was pretty reasonable, we still let people share it, but obviously you don't want situations like that," Zuckerberg said.
Coverup Impacted Election Results: Poll, Investigative JournalistsA poll by New Jersey-based Technometrica Institute of Policy and Politics in early August of 1,335 adults showed that 79 percent of Americans believe former President Donald Trump likely would have won reelection if people had known the truth about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
The Republican congressman noted that Biden had previously insisted that he and his son Hunter never discussed Hunter’s business dealings.