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Too little too late? Twitter announces ‘hacked materials’ policy update after Biden expose censorship fiasco

“Over the last 24 hours, we’ve received significant feedback (from critical to supportive) about how we enforced our Hacked Materials Policy yesterday,” Twitter policy head Vijaya Gadde said in a tweet on Thursday night, adding that the company would change how it applies the rule and lift its blockade on the Biden story, published on Wednesday by the New York Post.

Going forward, Gadde said Twitter would no longer remove “hacked content” unless it is “directly shared by hackers” or those working alongside them, and that instead of blocking links, it will now append them with labels to add “context” to tweets. She added the decision was made to address concerns that the original policy could have “many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter’s purpose of serving the public conversation.”

Wednesday’s Post story made waves across the internet, prompting Twitter to invoke its rules on both “private information” and the “distribution of hacked material,” arguing the article disclosed personal details of Hunter Biden – the son of 2020 Democratic nominee and former vice president Joe Biden – without his permission.

The move ignited a firestorm among conservatives, who insisted Twitter was only interested in burying a damaging story about the Democratic presidential pick. Thursday’s reversal has triggered an equal measure of outrage from across the political spectrum, with left-of-center critics arguing the company “caved” to “bullying” from the Republican Party.

Some netizens weighed in with mock ‘translations’ of Gadde’s announcement, one joking that Twitter scrambled to change its rules after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai indicated earlier on Thursday that he would “clarify” the law governing how platforms like Twitter and Facebook can moderate content – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The policy update did not earn Twitter plaudits from those on the right, however, as some self-avowed conservatives insisted “slight adjustments” to the rules will not be enough after the company was “caught blatantly choosing sides.” 

Other users complained that they were still blocked from sharing the Post story, suggesting the rule change hadn’t yet come into effect.

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