The disputed New York Post story about Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, may be a dud, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hit Twitter hard. 

Twitter’s decision Wednesday to prevent users from tweeting and direct messaging the URL to a controversial story about the former vice president’s son forced an apparent reckoning at the social media giant. As the United States barrels toward a presidential election that’s just over two weeks away, Twitter announced Thursday evening that it’s overhauling its existing policy governing the sharing of hacked materials. 

The big takeaway? Twitter will no long outright block the sharing of links to hacked data — with some pretty important caveats. It will also not immediately pull down hacked material from the platform. Again, with some major provisos. 

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s lead of legal, policy and trust and safety, explained both the changes and the motivation behind them in a long Twitter thread. 

“We believe that labeling Tweets and empowering people to assess content for themselves better serves the public interest and public conversation,” she wrote. “The Hacked Material Policy is being updated to reflect these new enforcement capabilities.”

Going forward, Gadde said Twitter “will label Tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter[.]”

This change comes after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey criticized his company’s handling of the New York Post story. 

“Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix,” he wrote. “Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that.”

Gadde made clear that this new change won’t give hackers a free pass to dump private info on the social media platform. 

“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 wrote

Notably, as of Friday morning, Twitter was still preventing (at least for this reporter) sharing of the URL for Distributed Denial of Secrets. This past June, Twitter banned the group after it published the police data that became known as Blue Leaks. The data, obtained in a hack by a third party and later shared with Distributed Denial of Secrets, has been a vital tool for journalists reporting on Black Lives Matter protests, white supremacist violence, facial recognition, and the Department of Homeland Security

The Distributed Denial of Secrets URL appeared blocked on Twitter as of Friday morning.

Image: screenshot / twitter

Emma Best, Distributed Denial of Secrets’ cofounder, shared her thoughts on Twitter’s Thursday update. 

“Too late,” they wrote

We reached out to Twitter, both in an attempt to determine if the company will still proactively block sharing of hacked material if it contains “private information” and why the Distributed Denial of Secrets URL appears to still be blocked, but received no immediate response. 

SEE ALSO: Police claim ‘violent extremists’ exploit coronavirus to defeat facial recognition, leaked files show

Even so, this update is a significant one. While the New York Post story may be part of a transparent misinformation campaign, there will be plenty of legitimate news stories going forward based on hacked material. Twitter would be doing us all a disservice if it proactively prevented the sharing of that reporting. 





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