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Twitter was right to suppress the New York Post’s reporting of the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop, according to the head of a prominent media watchdog which is pressuring advertisers to rethink their adverts on Twitter when Elon Musk takes over.
Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of Media Matters for America, appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal on Thursday to discuss the state of the country’s media.
Carusone’s organization is one of 26 which signed a letter to advertisers published earlier this week, warning them about the dangers of being associated with a ‘cesspool of misinformation’ when Musk lifts Twitter’s policies on censorship.
A caller to the CSPAN show asked Carusone why there was not more investigative reporting on the content of Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Carusone said that the New York Post article blocked by Twitter was journalistically unsound – despite multiple media outlets including the Washington Post now confirming its authenticity, and despite Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey apologizing for blocking the story.
Angelo Carusone on Thursday appeared on a CSPAN show and was asked about reporting of Hunter Biden’s laptop
Hunter’s laptop, obtained by the New York Post, contained a trove of embarrassing photos and information about his business dealings
The 52-year-old is pictured at the Easter Egg Roll at the White House on April 18
‘A lot of – even people who are deep advocates for the narrative around Hunter Biden really seem to miss the genesis,’ Carusone said.
‘And, for people who are not super enmeshed in the right-wing media, when people talk about that, what they are referring to is that in October of 2020 a New York Post article was published that Twitter decided you could not distribute the links to, on Twitter.
‘It was consistent with their policies of leaked information that was not verified.
‘The right wing went nuts about it, as evidence of a conspiracy.
‘Let’s just go back in time here: the genesis and the reason why is that the New York Post article did not meet any minimum editorial standards.
‘They did not provide any evidence: they did not verify anything that they were reporting.’
Carusone was also asked, by the same caller, why there was not more reporting on Hunter Biden’s art sales.
An art work by Hunter Biden, for sale at the Georges Berges gallery
The 52-year-old son of the president made his gallery debut this fall, with shows in Los Angeles and New York. Some of the works were priced at $500,000.
Buyers would be kept anonymous, the White House said, to stop them seeking political influence with the Bidens.
But Walter Shaub, a former White House ethics chief, said the arrangement was “very disappointing”.
Carusone agreed that there should be more reporting, but denied that there was any reason for suspicion.
‘That’s what journalism does,’ he said.
‘Boy, I hope there’s not wrongdoing. It doesn’t seem like there is.
‘But yeah, that’s what journalism should do.
‘You should ask those questions – those are reasonable things to ask.
‘There’s no reasonable suspicion behind it, or any evidence to back that up, but that’s what journalists do.
‘And I think that would be a story worth investigating.’
When a Twitter user questioned Carusone’s verdict, he replied that it was ‘extremely good, fair and totally rational’.
He called the Twitter user an ‘ideology obsessed dips***.’
Carusone’s organization was founded in 2004 by David Brock – a former conservative journalist who turned liberal activist, who in 2017 was described by Politico as the ‘Democrats’ attack dog’.
‘The Clinton enforcer, who raised tens of millions of dollars and created a far-reaching web of outside groups to push her presidential candidacy, is now training his sights on Trump,’ they wrote at the time.
‘Brock is rallying Democratic megadonors behind his cause and while he can be controversial at times, few bet against his efforts. His tentacles are far-reaching, including his media monitoring nonprofit Media Matters and the opposition research super PAC American Bridge.’
Media Matters for America says it is ‘dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.’
David Brock, founder of Media Matters for America, was described by Politico as ‘Democrats’ attack dog’ (left) and Jesse Lehrich, co-founder of Accountable Tech. Both groups signed the letter warning advertisers against continuing to advertise on Twitter
They were among the signatories of the letter to major advertisers on Twitter, warning about the platform under Musk.
‘Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter will further toxify our information ecosystem and be a direct threat to public safety, especially among those already most vulnerable and marginalized,’ they wrote.
They warned that advertising on Twitter would see their company ‘risks association with a platform amplifying hate, extremism, health misinformation, and conspiracy theorists.’
The authors continued: ‘Under Musk’s management, Twitter risks becoming a cesspool of misinformation, with your brand attached, polluting our information ecosystem in a time where trust in institutions and news media is already at an all-time low.
‘Your ad dollars can either fund Musk’s vanity project or hold him to account. We call on you to demand Musk uphold these basic standards of community trust and safety, and to pull your advertising spending from Twitter if they are not.
According to Influence Watch, the group was founded with about $2 million in donations from prominent liberal donors, such as Susie Tompkins Buell, the 78-year-old co-founder of clothing brands Esprit and The North Face; Leo Hindery, 74, a private equity investor specializing in media; and James Hormel, who died in August aged 88.
Hormel was heir to a meatpacking fortune, and the first openly gay man to represent the United States as an ambassador – to Luxembourg, from 1997. He also co-founded in 1981 the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s preeminent gay rights group.
Media Matters is funded by a coalition of donors, including the National Education Association – America’s largest union, representing teachers and other school staff – and several Jewish groups, such as the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and Community Foundation of the United Jewish Federation of San Diego.
Musk, in response to the letter, tweeted: ‘Who funds these organizations that want to control your access to information? Let’s investigate …’
Piqued by the critique, he added: ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’
The 26 signatories to the letter warning advertisers off Twitter
1. Access Now
2. Accountable Tech
3. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation
4. Center for Countering Digital Hate
5. Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC)
6. Face the Music Collective
7. Fair Vote UK
8. Free Press
9. Friends of the Earth
10. Gender Equity Policy Institute
12. Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
13. Indivisible Northern Nevada
15. Media Matters for America
17. NARAL Pro-Choice America
18. National Hispanic Media Coalition
19. Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
21. Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc
22. The Sparrow Project
24. Union of Concerned Scientists
25. V-Day/One Billion Rising
26. Women’s March
Another of the 26 is Accountable Tech – a Washington DC-based group led by Nicole Gill, a political campaigner and founder of the 2017 Tax March, and Jesse Lehrich, a former foreign policy spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the nephew of David Axelrod, former senior adviser to Barack Obama.
‘Social media giants are eroding our consensus reality and pushing democracy to the brink,’ they state on their website.
‘Accountable Tech is fighting back.’
Founded in May 2020, the group is a 501(c)(4), which means it does not have to disclose its donor list, and it does not say on the website who funds it.
UltraViolet is the newest of the trio that headed the letter, and was founded in 2012.
‘UltraViolet is a powerful and rapidly growing community of people mobilized to fight sexism and create a more inclusive world that accurately represents all women, from politics and government to media and pop culture,’ they state on their website.
‘We founded UltraViolet on the principle that with a combination of organizing, technology, creative campaigning, and people power, we can win. Ultraviolet leads creative, breakthrough campaigns that have won victories from politics to culture.’
The group is also backed by several unions – among them the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and the American Federation of Teachers.
Musk is famously anti-union, and has been excluded from White House electric vehicle manufacturing events due to the fact that Tesla’s workforce is not unionized.
UltraViolet is backed by numerous family foundations, including that founded by Warren Buffet’s son Peter, NoVo Foundation.
NoVo works to help marginalized and oppressed groups in society.
It is also supported by one of the many Pritzker family’s foundations, Libra.
The Chicago-based billionaires are members of one of America’s richest families who made their money largely through the Hyatt hotel chain.
Nicholas Pritzker, 76, and his wife Susan founded the Libra Foundation in 2002, and the organization now ‘supports frontline organizations building a world where communities of color thrive.’
Hillary Clinton is pictured in conversation with Susie Tompkins Buell in March 2017. Tompkins Buell’s foundation donates to multiple progressive causes, with a focus on women’s rights and the environment
Not all of the 26 groups that signed the letter are U.S. based.
Fair Vote UK, a British group that works to ‘tackle the issue of data misuse, voter manipulation and lack of transparency in elections’, is among the signatories.
A small-scale group, they declare all donations over £500 ($624), and only confirm five such donations on their site.
Another British-based signatory was the Center for Countering Digital Hate, led by a former advisor to senior figures in the Labour Party, Imran Ahmed.
The group has expanded to have an office in Washington DC, but their work is largely British.
‘The Center is best known for working with Rachel Riley to remove controversial far-right commentator Katie Hopkins from Twitter and conspiracy theorist David Icke from Facebook and Youtube,’ according to Influence Watch.
George Soros, the founder and chair of Open Society Foundation, is pictured in June 2004. Soros, now 91, heads a foundation that since 1979 has donated more the $12 billion to progressive causes
Soros is pictured in September 2006 in Washington DC
European governments are strongly involved in backing another of the signatories – Access Now.
Begun during the 2009 Iranian election, as an activist group to organize and protest election fraud and report on human rights abuses, the group is now global with offices worldwide.
Their largest donor, according to their latest report, is the Swedish government’s development agency, Sida, followed by Soros’ Open Society Foundations.
The governments of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have contributed large amounts, as well as Canada’s government.