Twitter changes hacked content rules after Biden story furor

Yolanda Curtis
October 16, 2020

Employees walk past a lighted Twitter log as they leave the company's headquarters in San Francisco on August 13, 2019.

Twitter was wrong to block weblinks to an unverified political story, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Friday, as the company responded to criticism over its handling of the story that had prompted cries of censorship from the right. The feature will be rolled out internationally as the one-to-many messaging platform makes a priority of being an online venue for conversations rather than a pulpit for one-way broadcasting to the masses.

In a Twitter thread, the company's safety group said that the images in the article included personal and private information in violation of its rules, and said it considered material included in the article to be a violation of its hacked materials policy.

The social media behemoth - used by hundreds of millions worldwide - said late Thursday it would in future only block stolen information which was posted directly by hackers, and label any other information of questionable provenance.

Trump, who trails Biden in polls 19 days before the presidential election, blasted the two social media giants on Wednesday. Twitter blocked some people from sharing links to the story, and those who clicked on links that were shared were blocked from visiting the New York Post website.

Gadde cited that the changes are being made because Twitter wants "to address the concerns that there could be many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers, and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter's goal of serving the public conversation".

The national press secretary for Joseph R. Biden's presidential campaign said Thursday that Twitter's blocking of users from sharing a negative New York Post story about the Democratic nominee's son is evidence that the allegations are "false". In part because of this, and in part by the mere act of trying to limit the story, the tech platforms soon became the story, especially in conservative circles where purported bias from Big Tech is already a prime talking point.

"The tweet for which McEnany was purportedly locked out read, "**NEW** Email from Ukrainian executive to Hunter Biden asks Hunter to "use his influence" on behalf of the firm paying him $50k/mo in email with subject "urgent issue" obtained by @nypost Father @JoeBiden was in charge of Ukraine relations at time!"

The newspaper claimed that the former vice-president, who was in charge of United States policy toward Ukraine, took actions to help his son, who in 2014-2017 sat on the board of controversial Ukraine energy company Burisma.

The new policy also raises the question of how Twitter will determine whether or not a person is working "in concert" with hackers?

The report also made claims about Joe Biden's actions in Ukraine which were contrary to the record.

On Wednesday during his Des Moines, Iowa campaign rally, Trump criticised Facebook and Twitter for "taking negative posts down" about the Post report. Nevertheless, the Post reported that the existence of such a meeting undercut Biden's long-held assertions that he had no involvement with his son's business dealings.

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