Imagine: three weeks before a national election, a newspaper with ties to the incumbent publishes emails purporting to be from the son of the challenger in the race. The news outlet makes no attempt to verify the authenticity of the emails, which, even if genuine, do not actually show wrongdoing, so the outlet insinuates wrongdoing without evidence. If you heard about it happening in Eastern Europe you would dismiss it as an obvious case of political information warfare. But what happens when the election is the U.S. presidential race and the incumbent is Donald Trump?
On Wednesday, cybersecurity professionals, disinformation experts, and lawmakers urged journalists to be careful in their coverage of a “bombshell” New York Post story aimed at Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The Post story claims that newly discovered emails show — in the face of widely available evidence to the contrary — that Hunter Biden helped persuade his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to push Ukraine to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin for anti-corruption efforts. In fact, Biden sought Shokin’s firing because the Ukrainian was blocking anti-corruption efforts.
The provenance of the emails themselves is, to put it mildly, dubious. The Post story states that they come from a water-damaged laptop that was “dropped off at a repair shop in Biden’s home state of Delaware in April 2019, according to the store’s owner.” The owner made a copy of the hard drive, turned the computer over to the FBI, but then inexplicably gave copies