Pando

Twitter restricted the New York Post in the same way as BlueLeaks

Journalists have been calling foul on Twitter for years for not policing “disinformation”. Now we’re all shocked that its definition isn’t quite so clear-cut.

By Aimee Pearcy , written on October 14, 2020

From The News Desk

Today, the New York Post published an article that claimed to have obtained videos and emails from a laptop allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. The leaker is President Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. 

Since the story was posted, Twitter has made moves to prevent it from being shared -- and this isn’t the first time it’s happened. 

In June this year, Twitter censored Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) and banned their account following ‘BlueLeaks’ -- the hack of 251 law enforcement websites that exposed the personal data of 700,000 cops.

Following this, Twitter banned a DDoSecrets member after they shared a screenshot from the BlueLeaks archive, and then went on to suspend random accounts that had tweeted the BlueLeaks URL before it had been banned. 

When I reported on it, they blocked people from posting the link to the story on Twitter. When people tried to click on an existing link, they were met with an ominous pop-up stating that the link was “unsafe,” which made out Pando to be some kind of skeezy phishing website. 

Ironically, the post was titled, Twitter censored DDoSecrets and made BlueLeaks an even bigger deal.

Unsurprisingly, once Twitter censored this, it suddenly blew up. But it seems that Twitter has yet to learn from its mistakes. And now, by censoring the New York Post story, Twitter has just made it the one story that everyone on the internet wants to read. 

Once again, Twitter has defended its decision to block the story based on its “hacked material policy”. But the definition of ‘hacked material’ is very blurred. As Trevor Timm wrote, “if Trump's tax returns were hacked, Twitter wouldn't allow people to link to @nytimes front-page stories about them?”

Interestingly, Facebook cites a different reason for blocking the post. According to a tweet by Facebook’s Andy Stone, the story is being “fact checked by Facebook's third-party fact checking partners”. 

Republican Doug Collins even wrote a letter to Zuckerberg to let him know how “deeply disturbed” he was about Facebook “using its monopoly to control what news Americans have access to”. 

But there is one key difference between the New York Post story and BlueLeaks: when it came to BlueLeaks -- which showed huge police bias against BLM, and pissed off a markedly different group of people -- there was far less outrage. And most of the people who are outraged over today’s story had little to say about BlueLeaks just a few months ago.

“We have made repeated attempts to reach out to the company to ask, how come Twitter has banned our URLs and not those of our competition? We have never heard back. Now the mainstream notices that Twitter is enforcing problematic and selective processes, because a more popular outlet faces the blocking of a single story. Meanwhile, our whole entire website, and also subsequent websites we have published since, are banned, as a direct result of publishing BlueLeaks,” DDoSecrets’ editor-in-chief, Lorax B. Horne, told Pando. 

“I'd call on Twitter to immediately establish democratic and transparent processes for enforcing its terms of service that include room for appeals and community oversight. Who is even making the decisions at Twitter about what is hacked material? Try typing in AssangeLeaks.org and figuring out how they decided that stuff is against their ToS.”

Journalists have been calling foul on Twitter for years for not policing “disinformation”. Now we’re all shocked that its definition isn’t quite so clear-cut. 

Unsurprisingly, this is what happens when we ask big platforms to ‘do more’: it’s messy and inconsistent. 

For more from Pando, sign up to our weekly newsletter.