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Twitter Updates ‘Hacked Materials’ policy after censoring NY Post’s Hunter Biden Exposé

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After intense backlash for suppressing the spread of the New York Post‘s Hunter Biden emails exposé on its platform, including a Senate subpoena, Twitter announced Thursday night that it’s changing its policy on “hacked materials.”

“Over the last 24 hours, we’ve received significant feedback (from critical to supportive) about how we enforced our Hacked Materials Policy yesterday,” tweeted Vijaya Gadde—Twitter’s lead for legal, policy, and trust and safety—in a nine-part thread. “After reflecting on this feedback, we have decided to make changes to the policy and how we enforce it.”

In her statement, Gadde listed two major changes to the policy. Firstly, Twitter “will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them.” And then secondly, the site “will label Tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter.”

Explaining Twitter’s reasoning, Gadde said that “We believe that labeling Tweets and empowering people to assess content for themselves better serves the public interest and public conversation,” and that the “Hacked Material Policy is being updated to reflect these new enforcement capabilities.”

However, she notes, “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.”

When users tried to tweet a link to the exposé or retweet someone who had already tweeted it, a notification preventing them from sharing it would pop up, saying, “The link you are trying to access has been identified by Twitter and our partners as being potentially spammy or unsafe,” and then listing potential reasons for why the link was categorized as such. (See image below)

Screen Shot 2020 10 15 at 9.31.12 AM

Twitter originally justified slowing the Wednesday exposé‘s spread because the Hunter Biden emails in question that The Post obtained had allegedly originated from the hard drive of a laptop given to a Delaware repair shop. Because of this, Twitter claimed initially that these emails fell under the umbrella of hacked materials and were unverified.

Seeing this action, many political figures, commentators, journalists, and publications eviscerated Twitter on its very own platform, accusing it of censorship and interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential election that’s days away.

Complicating matters, because the exposé alleged that former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate and father of Hunter Biden, possibly engaged in corruption, conservatives especially went after the social media site. Furthermore, it was the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who have spearheaded the effort to subpoena the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey.

Faith in the electoral process was already disastrously low, and this only compounds people’s anxiety and lack of trust. Retweeting Gadde’s thread, Dorsey wrote that the “Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix,” adding “Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that,” he added.

Regardless, it is unlikely that these policy changes will fan the flames of this censorship scandal: Too little, too late.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Meta to reinstate Trump’s Facebook, Instagram ‘in coming weeks’

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Meta’s president of Global Affairs Nick Clegg announced former President Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts will be reinstated “in coming weeks” after a more than two-year suspension.

“Our determination is that the risk [to public safety] has sufficiently receded,” Meta Clegg said in a blog post. “As such, we will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks. However, we are doing so with new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”

Twitter restored Trump’s account in November following its takeover by billionaire Elon Musk, but the former president has not yet resumed tweeting. Therefore it is unclear if he will use any of his former social media platforms, or instead remain on his own social media platform, Truth Social.

Clegg said “We just do not want — if he is to return to our services — for him to do what he did on January 6, which is to use our services to delegitimize the 2024 election, much as he sought to discredit the 2020 election.”

New “guardrails” include new policies around restricting accounts by public figures during civil unrest. Under those policies, Meta can decide to restrict the account of a public figure that violates its community standards for a time ranging from one month to two years.

“If he now posts further violating content, that content will be removed, of course, and he could be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” Clegg said.

Posts will also be able to be limited on distribution without removing them or temporarily restricting access to its advertising tools. “Oblique references to QAnon content, for instance … is the kind of material that — even if it’s done obliquely, and doesn’t violate our community standards — we would seek to restrict the distribution of the content and/or restrict his ability to advertise,” added Clegg.

 

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