Twit­ter back­tracks on its han­dling of Hunter Bi­den story

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS -

Twit­ter was wrong to block web links to an un­verif ied po­lit­i­cal story, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Jack Dorsey said Fri­day, as the com­pany re­sponded to crit­i­cism over its han­dling of the story that had prompted cries of cen­sor­ship from the right.

“Straight block­ing of URLs was wrong, and we up­dated our pol­icy and en­force­ment to f ix,” he tweeted, shortly be­fore the com­pany con­firmed it had re­sumed al­low­ing users to share the New York Post story about Hunter Bi­den, son of Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den. “Our goal is to at­tempt to add con­text, and now we have ca­pa­bil­i­ties to do that.”

Dorsey was weigh­ing in af­ter an ex­ec­u­tive at the so­cial me­dia com­pany an­nounced changes late Thurs­day to its pol­icy on hacked con­tent af­ter an on­slaught of crit­i­cism.

Twit­ter will no longer re­move hacked ma­te­rial un­less it’s di­rectly shared by hack­ers or those work­ing with them, the com­pany’s head of le­gal, pol­icy, trust and safety, Vi­jaya Gadde, said in a Twit­ter thread.

And in­stead of block­ing links from be­ing shared, the plat­form will la­bel tweets to pro­vide con­text, Gadde said.

“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,” she said.

Twit­ter and Face­book had moved quickly this week to limit the spread of the story pub­lished by the con­ser­va­tive- lean­ing Post, which cited un­ver­i­fied emails be­lieved to be from Bi­den’s son that were re­port­edly dis­cov­ered by Pres­i­dent Trump’s al­lies. The story has not been conf irmed by other pub­li­ca­tions.

Twit­ter ini­tially re­sponded by ban­ning users from shar­ing links to the ar­ti­cle in tweets and di­rect mes­sages be­cause it vi­o­lated com­pany pol­icy pro­hibit­ing hacked con­tent.

But it didn’t alert users about why they couldn’t share the link un­til hours later.

Dorsey had f irst tweeted that it was “un­ac­cept­able” the com­pany hadn’t pro­vided more con­text for its ac­tion. A lit­tle over 24 hours later, Gadde an­nounced that the com­pany was mak­ing changes af­ter re­ceiv­ing “sig­nif­i­cant feed­back ( from crit­i­cal to sup­port­ive)” about how it en­forced the pol­icy.

The com­pany ini­tially said the link to the New York Post story would still be blocked un­der a pol­icy pro­hibit­ing shar­ing of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

On Fri­day, the com­pany re­sumed al­low­ing users to share the story, with a spokesman say­ing the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion con­tained in emails that were part of the New York Post re­port are now so widely dis­trib­uted that it’s no longer a vi­o­la­tion of its pri­vate in­for­ma­tion rule. The New York Times ear­lier re­ported Twit­ter’s de­ci­sion.

Face­book said it was “re­duc­ing” the story’s dis­tri­bu­tion on its plat­form while wait­ing for third- party fact check­ers to ver­ify it, some­thing it reg­u­larly does with ma­te­rial that’s not banned out­right from its ser­vice, though it risks spread­ing lies or caus­ing harm in other ways.

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