Late on Thursday evening, Twitter manager Vijaya Gadde tweeted that the company had made the decision, after receiving “feedback” over the past 24 hours, that the guidelines for hacked materials, as written, resulted in inappropriate censorship of journalists and journalists Whistleblowers. Going forward, the company will only remove content if posted directly by hackers or those who work with them. More questionable tweets are flagged.
The nightly move reflected the challenges Silicon Valley companies must meet in real time to protect public discussion during a presidential election marred by disinformation and misleading news. Tech companies are keen to avoid repeating the 201
“Moderating content is incredibly difficult, especially in the critical context of an election. We try to act responsibly and quickly to avoid harm, but we are still learning along the way, ”wrote Gadde, who leads the company’s legal, policy, trust and safety departments.
On Wednesday, Twitter blocked the link to the article in which President Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and former top advisor Stephen K. Bannon claimed they received and leaked a lot of private materials from Hunter Biden. The leaked documents suggested that at some point he gave a Ukrainian executive the “opportunity” to meet the former vice president. The Biden campaign said its schedule indicated that no such meeting took place.
The story rose to the top of Twitter’s trending list of topics before it was censored.
The company said it took the action out of a plethora of caution regarding the potential for the emails to be hacked. Twitter has banned the publication of hacked material since 2018. The policy was adopted in response to an incident during the 2016 campaign when WikiLeaks of Russia dropped hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Facebook also downgraded the story until the fact-checking was verified. The company refused to provide any rationale for downgrading the story’s reach, which had garnered 1.9 million likes and shares by late Thursday.
The companies’ unusual actions were immediately criticized by the Trump administration and GOP lawmakers, but were also criticized by journalists and advocates of the freedom of the press when it became clear that the New York Post’s behavior described in the article did not appear to conflict recognized journalistic practice to obtain information.
Others praised the companies for their caution at a critical time.
In addition to censoring the story, Twitter has temporarily frozen the accounts of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and the New York Post and added notes to their tweets that they violated Twitter’s rules on prohibiting the publication of hacked material. Trump’s campaign account has been temporarily suspended. Had the new rules been introduced, it is unclear whether these measures would have been taken.