On Wednesday, The New York Post published a blockbuster story about a “smoking gun” email allegedly proving that then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter introduced the VP to an executive at the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian gas company Burisma — before Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian president to fire a prosecutor looking into Burisma. Facebook announced that it was reducing the article’s distribution, even before any fact-check. Twitter also locked people out of their accounts when they tried to share the article, even cracking down on White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that Twitter’s censorship of the article was “unacceptable.” He acknowledged that Twitter had blocked URL sharing via tweet or direct message “with zero context as to why we’re blocking.”
“Our communication around our actions on the [New York Post] article was not great. And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable,” Dorsey tweeted.
He also shared a Twitter thread from Twitter Safety explaining why the Post article allegedly violated the company’s policies.
The company claimed that the two New York Post articles contained images that “include personal and private information — like email addresses and phone numbers — which violate our rules.” Twitter argued that the materials violated its “Hacked Materials Policy.”
“Commentary on or discussion about hacked materials, such as articles that cover them but do not include or link to the materials themselves, aren’t a violation of this policy. Our policy only covers links to or images of hacked material themselves,” Twitter argued. “The policy, established in 2018, prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization. We don’t want to incentivize hacking by allowing Twitter to be used as distribution for possibly illegally obtained materials.”
“We know we have more work to do to provide clarity in our product when we enforce our rules in this manner. We should provide additional clarity and context when preventing the Tweeting or DMing of URLs that violate our policies,” the company concluded.
Many commentators countered this argument.
“You didn’t lock Rachel Maddow out of her account when she was posting about President Trumps alleged tax returns which were obtained illegally,” Mark Dice tweeted.
Will Chamberlain, editor-in-chief at Human Events, asked, “What is your evidence that the materials were ‘obtained through hacking?'”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) condemned Dorsey’s statement, saying it is “not nearly good enough. In fact, it’s a joke. It’s downright insulting. I will ask you – and [Facebook] – to give an explanation UNDER OATH to the Senate subcommittee I chair. These are potential violations of election law, and that’s a crime.”
.@Twitter @jack this is not nearly good enough. In fact, it’s a joke. It’s downright insulting. I will ask you – and @Facebook – to give an explanation UNDER OATH to the Senate subcommittee I chair. These are potential violations of election law, and that’s a crime https://t.co/Rylva8UJv9
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 15, 2020
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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.