Twitter has issued a mea culpa after using its “hacked materials” policy to bury a controversial story alleging shady backroom dealings by the Biden family, with the platform vowing to alter its rules and how it enforces them.
“Over the last 24 hours, we’ve received significant feedback (from critical to supportive) about how we enforced our Hacked Materials Policy yesterday,” Twitter policy head Vijaya Gadde said in a tweet on Thursday night, adding that the company would change how it applies the rule and lift its blockade on the Biden story, published Wednesday by the New York Post.
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.
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.
— Vijaya Gadde (@vijaya) October 16, 2020
Going forward, Gadde said Twitter would no longer remove “hacked content” unless it is “directly shared by hackers” or those working alongside them, and that instead of blocking links, it will now append them with labels to add “context” to tweets. She added the decision was made to address concerns that the original policy could have “many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter’s purpose of serving the public conversation.”
Wednesday’s Post story made waves across the internet, prompting Twitter to invoke its rules on both “private information” and the “distribution of hacked material,” arguing the article disclosed personal details of Hunter Biden – the son of 2020 Democratic nominee and former vice president Joe Biden – without his permission.
Amazing – but wholly normal in 2020 – to see an alleged journalist apparently decrying those calling out Twitter for censorship (and that too a highly selective one). https://t.co/fH5ZbLrcIs
— I am Spartacus 🎃 (@rhino_mascarita) October 16, 2020
The move ignited a firestorm among conservatives, who insisted Twitter was only interested in burying a damaging story about the Democratic presidential pick. Thursday’s reversal has triggered an equal measure of outrage from across the political spectrum, with left-of-center critics arguing the company “caved” to “bullying” from the Republican Party.
Some netizens weighed in with mock ‘translations’ of Gadde’s announcement, one joking that Twitter scrambled to change its rules after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai indicated earlier on Thursday that he would “clarify” the law governing how platforms like Twitter and Facebook can moderate content – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
"We realised that we forgot to apply the policy to many stories that we liked and so we are going to try to cover our tracks."
— 〽️ RT (@thereald0tt) October 16, 2020
Translation: “The promised review by the FCC on eliminating or refining our 230 protection from liability has us sh*tting our panties over here so we promise to behave so they will go away!!”.
— Nick Ahlborn (@NickAhlborn) October 16, 2020
The policy update did not earn Twitter plaudits from those on the right, however, as some self-avowed conservatives insisted “slight adjustments” to the rules will not be enough after the company was “caught blatantly choosing sides.” Other users complained that they were still blocked from sharing the Post story, suggesting the rule change hadn’t yet come into effect.
This is not a fine-tuning issue.
The enforcement of these policies has not been equally applied. And the process is opaque.
Those are the central issues. Slight adjustments after Twitter is caught blatantly choosing sides doesn't help.
— Heimish Conservative (@HeimishCon) October 16, 2020
Under your current policy, you would have refused to allow Bob Woodward's Watergate expose to be shared. Or, that would be the case except Woodward's expose was about a Republican, do it would have been granted the Twitter Papal dispensation given to stories that benefit Dems.
— Chaos60 (@lane_cay) October 16, 2020
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Image source/copyright RT.com