Twitter locks account of Kayleigh McEnany for sharing Hunter Biden story, White House claims

Spokesperson’s account working again later with note on timeline saying ‘this tweet no longer available’

Justin Vallejo
New York
Thursday 15 October 2020 09:47 BST
Trump accuses Joe Biden of ‘lying’ about role in son Hunter’s Ukraine business dealings
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Donald Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany had her Twitter account locked for sharing a news story that reflected negatively on Joe Biden, according to the White House.

It came as Donald Trump threatened to remove protections for tech platforms after Twitter and Facebook censored The New York Post’s reporting of emails from Hunter Biden, which allegedly showed he leveraged access to his father in exchange for payments through his position on the board of Ukraine company Burisma.

“Twitter has locked the personal account of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany for sharing news Democrats don’t like,” the Trump campaign said in a tweet.

Ms McEnany’s personal account was working again late on Wednesday, with a note on her timeline that “this tweet is no longer available”.

On her official White House account, Ms McEnany tweeted “censorship should be condemned” and that it was “not the American way”.

At his rally in Iowa, Mr Trump said Twitter closed down the account of the White House press secretary for sharing the news.

“They closed down her account. She’s the White House press secretary. Because she’s reporting the truth, they closed down her account. So let’s see what’s going to happen,” he said.

Twitter announced earlier that it was taking action to block any URLs, links, images or material by removing tweets that violated its “Hacked Materials Policy”.

The company followed Facebook, which said it was “reducing its distribution” on the platform until it is fact checked by third-party partners.  

The move was announced by Facebook’s policy communications manager Andy Stone, a former staffer for the presidential campaign of Democrat John Kerry, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Senator Barbara Boxer, and the Democrat House Majority PAC, according to his LinkedIn.

Following the takedowns of the story from the Silicon Valley tech giants, Mr Trump tweeted “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” in direct reference to the protections they receive as platforms rather than publishers.

“So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of ‘Smoking Gun’ emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the @NYPost. It is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician. REPEAL SECTION 230!!!,” he tweeted.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects tech companies by designating them as platforms rather than publishers, meaning they’re not legally responsible for the content of their users.

The Justice Department is currently reviewing Section 230, and whether companies receive the same protections while acting as publishers and making editorial decisions.

“For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” said attorney general William Barr in announcing proposed legislation. “We therefore urge Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate criminal activity online.”

While the emails Ms McEnany shared were taken down from her Twitter account, she later shared a reproduction of the story from the House of Representatives GOP Judiciary Committee.

“Twitter has blocked users from tweeting the link to the @nypost's story on Hunter Biden. So we put it on our website for you to read and share,” 

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley sent letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey questioning the partiality of the platforms, while Senator Ted Cruz said the moves were “hypocritical”.  

“This can only be seen as an obvious and transparent attempt by Twitter to influence the upcoming presidential election,” Mr Cruz said.

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