Social media giant Twitter has announced that it is going to reverse course on some of the nasty, extreme forms of censorship the company participated in this week when it attempted to stop the dissemination of information concerning a report published by the New York Post that featured newly released emails concerning Hunter Biden and his shady business dealings with Burisma Holdings.
These documentations could potentially be damaging for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, as they lend credibility to the idea that he abused the power of the office of vice president during Obama’s administration to help get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired from his job for investigating Burisma, where his son held a position on the board.
The censorship — which was condemned by lawmakers as election interference — came in response to news reports from The New York Post that purported to show new emails from Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, about his business dealings while Joe Biden was vice president in the Obama administration. Twitter claimed that the information was “hacked,” even though there was no proof of that being true. Twitter users repeatedly highlighted the platform’s hypocrisy with its policy enforcement, noting that it allowed The New York Times’ story about Trump’s taxes — which were leaked to the paper — to trend for days.
Vijaya Gadde, Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead at Twitter, announced that the platform was going to make changes to how it handles situations like this in the future. The announcement comes after the platform blocked users from sharing links to The New York Post’s reports and after top Senators on the Judiciary Committee announced that they would be issuing subpoenas for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify next week about the platform “actively interfering in this election.”Trending:
“Over the last 24 hours, we’ve received significant feedback (from critical to supportive) about how we enforced our Hacked Materials Policy yesterday. After reflecting on this feedback, we have decided to make changes to the policy and how we enforce it,” Gadde wrote. “Why the changes? We want to address the concerns that there could be many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter’s purpose of serving the public conversation.”
“We put the Hacked Materials Policy in place back in 2018 to discourage and mitigate harms associated with hacks and unauthorized exposure of private information. We tried to find the right balance between people’s privacy and the right of free expression, but we can do better. We’ve recently added new product capabilities, such as labels to provide people with additional context. We are no longer limited to Tweet removal as an enforcement action,” Gadde said in the announcement. “We believe that labeling Tweets and empowering people to assess content for themselves better serves the public interest and public conversation. The Hacked Material Policy is being updated to reflect these new enforcement capabilities.”
There were two changes that Gadde pointed to that are going to be made:
1. We will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them.
2. We will label Tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter.
“All the other Twitter Rules will still apply to the posting of or linking to hacked materials, such as our rules against posting private information, synthetic and manipulated media, and non-consensual nudity,” Gadde said in conclusion. “I’m grateful for everyone who has provided feedback and insights over the past day. Content moderation is incredibly difficult, especially in the critical context of an election. We are trying to act responsibly & quickly to prevent harms, but we’re still learning along the way. We will continue to keep you all updated on our progress and more details as we update our policy pages to reflect these changes in the coming days.”
Dorsey, the company CEO, went on to comment on Gadde’s tweet with the following:
Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix. Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that. https://t.co/ZLUw3YD887
— jack (@jack) October 16, 2020
Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook have become the modern day public square. These platforms are where most people get their news, and as such, that makes them more akin to publishers than simply private companies.
This means they must abide by the First Amendment and never silence the voices of those they vehemently disagree with from a political standpoint, especially when it comes to reports being shared by major media outlets.
Let’s hope that the more the fire gets put to their feet, the less they try the censorship route.