Twitter will now add warning labels to tweets containing hacked material instead of banning them entirely, after its blocking of contested New York Post Biden story provoked uproar

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  • Twitter is changing how it deals with tweets containing hacked materials after its decision to block users from sharing a contested New York Post story about Joe and Hunter Biden prompted uproar.
  • Twitter’s head of policy Vijaya Gadde said on Thursday that the platform “will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them” and will add contextual labels to tweets with links to such material instead of blocking them entirely.
  • “We want 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 said.
  • Twitter and Facebook both sought to limit the story’s spread after questions arose about its veracity and the possibility the story was part of a disinformation campaign
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Twitter is making major changes to its hacked information policy following uproar over its decision to enforce the policy by blocking users from sharing a contested New York Post story about Hunter and Joe Biden.

“Over the last 24 hours, we’ve received significant feedback (from critical to supportive) about how we enforced our Hacked Materials Policy yesterday. After reflecting on this feedback, we have decided to make changes to the policy and how we enforce it,” Vijay Gadde, Twitter’s head of policy, tweeted on Thursday evening.

Twitter “will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them,” Gadde said.

She also said that Twitter will add contextual labels to tweets containing links to hacked materials instead of blocking them outright, as it did with tweets containing links to the New York Post story.

“We believe that labeling Tweets and empowering people to assess content for themselves better serves the public interest and public conversation,” Gadde said, adding that Twitter wanted 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.”

Twitter took the significant step of blocking users on Wednesday from sharing the article, as well as temporarily suspending some accounts that tried to tweet a link to it, after questions arose about the veracity of the claims made in the story, its sourcing, and the possibility that it is connected to a foreign disinformation campaign.

The New York Post article, published Wednesday morning, included files and emails that were supposedly taken from a laptop that previously belonged to Hunter Biden, but multiple media outlets, including Business Insider, quickly noted that it was riddled with holes and red flags and dubious sourcing.

In response, Twitter and Facebook both sought to limit its spread, with Twitter saying that tweets containing links to or images from the article violated its policies against sharing hacked materials as well as personal information.

“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,” Gadde said on Thursday.

“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,” she added, implying the tweets containing material from the New York Post story could still be banned under those policies.

Twitter’s enforcement actions prompted a strong backlash from conservatives who alleged the platform was intentionally exhibiting anti-conservative bias.

“I find this behavior stunning but not surprising from a platform that has censored the President of the United States,” Republican Sen. Josh Hawley wrote in a letter to Twitter. (The First Amendment does not prohibit private companies from limiting speech, only the government.)

Republican senators are now planning to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify about his company’s enforcement actions Wednesday.

“Our communication around our actions on the @nypost article was not great,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted Wednesday evening regarding the company’s response. “And blocking URL sharing via tweet or DM with zero context as to why we’re blocking: unacceptable.”

Twitter also faced a backlash from some journalists, who worried that its policies would prevent them from sharing news stories containing information obtained via confidential sources that are often not authorized to share such materials publicly.

Twitter and Facebook have increasingly come under the spotlight over their content moderation policies as they seek to balance free speech and expression with limiting the spread of misinformation ahead of major upcoming elections.

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