Twitter is reversing its course on censorship following widespread outrage and pending litigation from members of the United States Senate.
Earlier this week, the New York Post published a series of bombshell articles implicating former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden in a pay-for-play corruption scandal involving his father and his alleged ties to Ukrainian energy conglomerate Burisma.
Twitter banned links to the article and suspended users who shared it.
The expose was based on emails obtained through a laptop formerly in possession of Hunter, which was given to a computer repair shop and never collected, thus making it the legal possession of the computer repair shop owner. Twitter claimed that the articles and information contained within the pieces was “hacked.”
Twitter announced on Friday that it will be reversing its censorship of the publication, which it imposed to stop the dissemination of the information.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Twitter prevented users from linking to the article and suspended a number of high-profile users who shared pictures from the article, including the New York Post, the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee, the official Trump 2020 campaign account, the personal account of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and actor James Woods—among others.
The censorship was widely condemned by Republicans as election interference. Even those on the left highlighted the attempts to suppress the information as evidence of the platform’s hypocrisy with policy enforcement.
The New York Times’ story on Trump’s taxes, which were illegally obtained, was allowed to trend for several days on the platform without intervention from Twitter moderation.
Vijaya Gadde, the Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead at Twitter, announced that the platform will make changes to how it handles similar situations in the future. The statement came after US Senators on the Judiciary Committee announced that they would be issuing a subpoena to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over the censorship, reports the Daily Wire.
“In the last two days, we have seen a remarkable development,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said on Thursday. “We have seen big tech, we’ve seen Twitter and Facebook actively interfering in this election in a way that has no precedent in the history of our country. Yesterday, the New York Post broke a story alleging serious corruption of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden concerning Ukraine. The allegations in the New York Post story, if true, indicate that Vice President Biden lied when he said that he had never discussed his son’s business dealings.” Posting on Twitter, Gadde said that the company reflected on feedback it received following the move and has decided to make chances to the policy and its enforcement.
“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,” Gadde wrote on her Twitter.
“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 continued. “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.”
Gadde specified two changes Twitter is making:
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 concluded.
“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.”