The day after Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook limited a polarizing story ahead of the 2020 election because of an FBI warning, the federal agency said it can only alert a private entity of a potential threat, not require it to take action.
In an episode of the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast made available Thursday, Zuckerberg said that although the FBI didn’t specifically name a New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s laptop, it “fit the pattern” of what the FBI warned about.
The Facebook cofounder said the FBI is a “legitimate institution” and that the warning prompted him to “take that seriously.” The story was allowed to remain on Facebook, albeit with limited exposure, Zuckerberg said.
In a statement Friday night, the FBI said it has provided companies with “foreign threat indicators” to help protect their platforms and customers, but that it “cannot ask, or direct, companies to take action on information received.”
“The FBI routinely notifies U.S. private sector entities, including social media providers, of potential threat information, so that they can decide how to better defend against threats,” the agency said.
Meta on Friday night responded to the FBI statement via Twitter. “The FBI shared general warnings about foreign interference — nothing specific about Hunter Biden,” the statement said.
The New York Post’s report alleged that a recovered version of Hunter Biden’s laptop included emails that indicated Joe Biden used his position as vice president to help his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.
An NBC News analysis of the hard drive, the iCloud account and documents released by two Senate committees showed Hunter Biden and his company brought in about $11 million through his roles as an attorney and a board member with a Ukrainian firm accused of bribery and his work with a Chinese businessman accused of fraud.
Hunter Biden acknowledged in a statement in December 2020 that federal investigators were investigating his “tax affairs.” A representative for Biden in May said he has paid off all of his tax responsibilities to the IRS, but legal experts have said that wouldn’t necessarily spare him any potential criminal liability.
Some have taken Zuckerberg’s remarks to Rogan to mean Facebook censored news to favor Joe Biden leading into the 2020 election.
In 2018, two third-party reports prepared for the U.S. Senate found that Russia used Facebook during the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, in part by inflaming right-wing conspiracy theories and sowing distrust among Black Americans.