Facebook, Twitter Restrict Controversial New York Post Story on Joe Biden
By Staff, Agencies
Facebook and Twitter took steps on Wednesday to limit the spread of a controversial New York Post article critical of Joe Biden, sparking outrage among conservatives and stoking debate over how social media platforms should tackle misinformation ahead of the US election.
In an unprecedented step against a major news publication, Twitter blocked users from posting links to the Post story or photos from the unconfirmed report. Users attempting to share the story were shown a notice saying: “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.” Users clicking or retweeting a link already posted to Twitter are shown a warning the “link may be unsafe”.
Twitter said it was limiting the article’s spread due to questions about “the origins of the materials” included in the article, which contained material supposedly pulled from a computer that had been left by Hunter Biden at a Delaware computer repair shop in April 2019. Twitter policies prohibit “directly distribut[ing] content obtained through hacking that contains private information”.
The company further explained the decision in a series of tweets on Wednesday, saying some of the images in the article contained personal and private information. Twitter’s policy against posting hacked material was established in 2018. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, said the company’s communication about the decision to limit the article’s spread was “not great”, saying the team should have shared more context publicly.
Facebook, meanwhile, placed restrictions on linking to the article, saying there were questions about its validity. “This is part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation,” said a Facebook spokesperson, Andy Stone.
The move marks the first time Twitter has directly limited the spread of information from a news website, as it continues to implement stricter rules around misinformation ahead of the 2020 elections. On Wednesday evening Twitter also reportedly locked the personal account of the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany for sharing the article.
In recent weeks Twitter announced it would warn users who attempt to retweet a link without first clicking on it for more context. It has also started to take action against misinformation and calls to violence posted by US President Donald Trump and other public figures.
Wednesday’s actions around the New York Post article drew swift backlash from figures on the political right, who accused Facebook and Twitter of protecting Biden, who is leading Trump in national polls.
The New York Post blasted the companies, saying they were trying to help Biden’s election campaign and falsely claiming no one had disputed the story’s veracity. “Facebook and Twitter are not media platforms. They’re propaganda machines,” it wrote in an editorial.