A supposed game-changing, election-blowing, campaign-sinking story nearly went viral, but then within a few hours, faded into oblivion while barely leaving a mark. It had all the hallmarks of a juicy story, a laptop with secret files, hacked emails, the FBI, Hunter Biden. The only issue was that most of it was a lie. For those who missed the New York Post “bombshell,” it debuted on Twitter this past week, framed as the smoking gun that would take down Biden’s campaign. It claimed that a customer dropped off a water-damaged laptop at a blind computer repair shop owner’s business. The owner couldn’t definitively claim it was Hunter Biden’s laptop but there was a Biden sticker on it and an invoice with Hunter Biden’s name on it..
The owner was reportedly troubled by the contents that he found. He then promptly turned over the contents of the laptop to the FBI and to Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer who then turned over the content to the New York Post. With the story, there were screenshots of supposed emails that outlined a potential meeting that took place between Biden and people in Ukraine.
To many people’s surprise, within a few hours almost every other media and tech company was immediately suspicious. They say that misinformation can travel a thousand miles in the time it takes for the truth to get its shoes on, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Facebook quarantined the story within a few hours of posting and conditioned the removal of quarantine upon an independent fact check of the story. Twitter went as far as blocking people, including Trump’s press secretary, from posting the NYPost story altogether. Almost immediately, journalists and other media-types were posting threads and articles outlining why it’s important to take this story with a huge grain of salt. It was an impressive thing to watch play out, giving us a glimpse of what successful throttling of misinformation can look like.
Because this story has so many holes, it falls apart under even the lightest of inspection. TechCrunch does a good breakdown of the wildly inconsistent logic of the story. Daily Beast was actually able to track down the shop owner, and the interview they got with him is wild. He cites the discredited Seth Rich conspiracy and can’t seem to keep his story straight on a lot of details involving the FBI. The biggest red flag of all seems to be that no other news organizations have been allowed to verify the story or the contents of the laptop. That begs the question why? Why does the NYPost and Rudy Giuliani not want any other media organization to have a look?
Well, the answer is either the emails and correspondence and every other lurid detail in this story is fake or the contents of that drive were stolen. Let me quote the end of that TechCrunch article, “Say, for example, that Hunter Biden’s iCloud account was hacked, something that has occurred to many celebrities and persons of political interest. This would give access not only to the emails purported to be shown in the Post article, but also personal images and video automatically backed up from the phone that took them. That data, however, would have to be ‘laundered’ in order to have a plausible origin that did not involve hackers, whose alliance and intent would be trivial to deduce. Loaded on a laptop with an obvious political sticker on it, with no password, left at a demonstrably unscrupulous repair shop with Hunter Biden’s personal contact details, it would be trivial to tip confederates off to its existence and vulnerability.”
Funny enough, that scenario sounds way more plausible than the story cooked up by NYPost, Rudy, and his associates, doesn’t it? Big surprise: the FBI seems to be now investigating whether Russian disinformation was involved with the NYPost story. At the end of the day, it’s hard to imagine the voter who will care about any of this Hunter Biden nonsense. This story will certainly make the rounds a few times in conservative spheres, but its wider reach has largely been diffused through the effort of most news outlet’s refusal to take the story seriously.