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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday took steps to limit the circulation of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden, deploying throttles that have been built in an effort to avoid repeating mistakes of 2016.

Why it matters: In the run-up to November's election, online platforms have designed circuit breakers to limit the spread of hacked emails and foreign meddling. In 2016, such material helped shape the political fight, and social media took much of the blame.

What's happening: Those circuit breakers tripped after the New York Post story reported allegations about Joe Biden's son, based on what the paper said were emails provided to it Sunday by Rudy Giuliani.

  • Twitter cited its "Hacked Material Policy," which says Twitter doesn't "permit the use of our services to directly distribute content obtained through hacking that contains private information, may put people in physical harm or danger, or contains trade secrets."
  • A Facebook spokesperson said of the N.Y. Post story: "[W]e are reducing its distribution on our platform."

The Biden campaign said in a statement: "The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story. They certainly never raised that Rudy Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely reported — claimed to have such materials."

  • The paper said it first learned about the existence of the material from Steve Bannon — like Giuliani, an ally of President Trump — in late September.

Between the lines: The action by the platforms drew an online backlash from conservatives — with the ironic result of drawing more attention to the material.

Go deeper

Jan 21, 2021 - Technology

Tech companies worry about becoming targets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tech employees are on high alert about their own personal safety as their employers roll out policies to ban or limit the reach of far-right extremists angry over former President Donald Trump's defeat.

Why it matters: As tech companies impose aggressive policies after the Capitol riot, employees will be the target of vitriol from aggrieved people who think tech and the media are conspiring to silence Trump and conservatives more broadly.

Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.