Fb and Twitter CEOs should reply to Senate Republicans following the Biden New York Submit story controversy
Facebook and Twitter typically need warmth in order to act too slowly and reduce the spread of harmful misinformation. But on Wednesday, both companies acted surprisingly quickly to limit the distribution of an unverified New York Post report claiming to contain a "smoking gun" email referring to Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and relates to his son Hunter.
The timing of the decision couldn't be more difficult for companies. Both CEOs had previously agreed to testify in just two weeks before the Senate Trade Committee at a hearing that was expected to include questions about the platforms' alleged prejudice against conservatives. The officers only agreed to volunteer after the committee unanimously decided to approve subpoenas if they did not. That hearing will take place on October 28, less than a week before election day.
However, what can flatten the discussion is the very different reasons and methods used by Facebook and Twitter to reduce the spread of the Post Story, which were refuted by the Biden campaign.
The reason given by Twitter was more technical and its methodology was more disruptive to individual users. Facebook's reason was more explicitly tied to its electoral politics, but its method was more subtle to the casual user.
Twitter cited its hacked material and private information guidelines as reasons to prevent users from posting or sharing links to the original post article even in private direct messages. The Post alleged the source of information for the unconfirmed story was a laptop that a Delaware repair shop owner believed belonged to Hunter Biden. When no one came to collect the hard drive, the owner allegedly made a copy of the hard drive and gave it to former New York City Mayor's attorney Rudy Giuliani before allegedly delivering the original to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Post said it later received a copy from Giuliani.
Twitter claimed the link was in violation of its guidelines because the material in the report, which included photos from the supposedly copied hard drive, contained allegedly hacked material. The article also contained an unedited copy of a message with alleged email addresses for Hunter Biden and two others. Sharing a non-public personal email address is also against Twitter's policies.
Users could still share articles that commented on the piece and did not contain allegedly hacked or personal information. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, even posted a copy of part of the article on his own website posted by the House Judiciary Committee's GOP Twitter account. This version of the article did not include the images that supposedly came from the hard drive, nor the unedited email addresses. Twitter left this link intact as of Thursday morning.
But CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet late Wednesday that Twitter's communications about his actions were "unacceptable".
Twitter shared a thread explaining the rationale for the decision on Wednesday evening, partially saying, "We don't want to incentivize hacking by allowing Twitter to be used as a distributor for material that may be illegally obtained."
Facebook didn't stop users from sharing the link to the article, but said it had reduced its circulation pending a fact-checking. Facebook spokesman Andy Stone announced the fact-checking a few hours after the article was published on Wednesday. As of Thursday morning – more than 24 hours after it was first posted on Facebook – Facebook posts with the link still had no labels showing it was being reviewed.
Stone wrote on Twitter that the review is "part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation," including a link to Facebook's Election Integrity Policy. On this page, Facebook says it is determined to fight foreign interference, increase transparency and reduce misinformation. As part of its commitment to reducing misinformation, Facebook says in the blog post that it will include "clearer fact-checking labels".
In many cases of content moderation, Facebook and Twitter are doomed if they do and doomed if they don't. Democrats have historically slammed the platforms for decisions not to remove or flag treated or misleading information on their websites. For example, both platforms refused to remove an edited video published by President Donald Trump in which House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi tore up Trump's address on the state of the Union. The edited video made it look like she tore the pages up after positive moments in the speech, such as when Trump greeted a Tuskegee aviator when she actually didn't do so until the end of the speech.
But at least as often the platforms are criticized by Republicans like Jordan and Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Who suspect them of manipulating their algorithms and policies against conservatives. Facebook and Twitter have repeatedly denied this, and the coverage shows that conservative viewpoints on the platforms often achieve wide reach.
When the trade committee voted to approve subpoenas for the CEOs earlier this month, senior member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Said she did not want her approval to "see a deterrent effect on anyone in litigation." try to combat hate speech or misinformation about Covid during a pandemic. "It now seems all but inevitable that the Republicans on the committee will pound both CEOs for their moderation processes.
Andrew Bates, spokesman for the Biden campaign, responded to the New York Post story in a statement:
"Investigations by the press, during impeachment, and even by two Republican-led Senate committees whose work was deemed" illegitimate "and political by a GOP colleague have all come to the same conclusion: Joe Biden was persecuted Official US policy towards Ukraine Trump administration officials have affirmed these facts under oath, "said Bates.
"The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story," he added. "You surely never mentioned that Rudy Giuliani – widely reported on his discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with people connected to Russian intelligence – claimed to have such materials.
"We also checked Joe Biden's official schedules from that time, and they never met, as the New York Post claims."
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