Twitter Changes Hacked Content Rules After New York Post Controversy

Twitter said Thursday that it was changing its rules related to hacked content after considering feedback it had received over its controversial decision to block a dubiously sourced New York Post article about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

Vijaya Gadde, head of Twitter’s legal and policy issues, announced the changes in a Twitter thread.

She said the social media platform would “no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them” and would instead label tweets that contain potentially hacked materials.

Gadde’s announcement comes a day after Twitter first chose to block links to the Post article, which raised questions about Joe and Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine.

Explaining its decision to block the story ― which contained emails allegedly recovered from a laptop that was dropped off last year at a computer repair shop in Delaware ― Twitter said the article violated its Hacked Materials Policy. 

The company said the Post had not provided adequate information as to the origins of the emails cited in its story. It added that images contained in the article had included “personal and private information” ― a further violation of its rules.

Twitter faced ridicule from some critics, including President Donald Trump, over its decision to block the Post’s article.

Trump on Wednesday accused Twitter — and also Facebook, which said it had reduced the distribution of the story over misinformation concerns — of “trying to protect” the Democratic presidential candidate from “negative” coverage.

Gadde said both critical and positive feedback had spurred Twitter to make amendments to its Hacked Materials Policy. 

“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 wrote.

She explained that the choice to label instead of block some tweets containing potentially hacked materials was made in response to “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.”

“I’m grateful for everyone who has provided feedback and insights over the past day,” Gadde added. “Content moderation is incredibly difficult, especially in the critical context of an election. We are trying to act responsibly & quickly to prevent harms, but we’re still learning along the way.”

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