Twitter allows New York Post account to tweet again after contested Hunter Biden story led the company to update hacked materials policy
- Twitter said on Friday that the New York Post's account "can now tweet again" after initially locking the account for violating its hacked materials and private information policies.
- Twitter updated the hacked materials policy earlier this month after facing backlash over its decision to restrict the New York Post and other accounts from sharing a contested story purporting to show corruption by Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
- Twitter said Friday it would now allow accounts to appeal enforcement actions made under old policies "if the account at issue is a driver of that change," adding that the New York Post qualified under that new standard.
- Cybersecurity experts told Business Insider that Twitter's updated hacked materials policy still gives hackers plenty of opportunities to find loopholes and exploit the new rules.
Twitter announced Friday that the New York Post's Twitter account can now tweet again, reversing previous enforcement action it had taken against the media outlet for violating its hacked materials policy, which Twitter has since updated.
Twitter originally blocked the @nypost account for sharing a link to a dubious New York Post story that contained content that Twitter said violated its policies against sharing hacked materials as well as private information. The company also blocked other users from sharing links to the story amid concerns about the story's veracity and source.
Following backlash over that decision, Twitter updated its hacked materials policy, saying it "will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them" and will add contextual labels to tweets with links to such material instead of blocking them entirely."
On Friday, Twitter said it would also end its "practice of not retroactively overturning prior enforcement."
"Decisions made under policies that are subsequently changed & published can now be appealed if the account at issue is a driver of that change. We believe this is fair and appropriate," Twitter added, saying restrictions like the ones it placed on the New York Post's account can now be appealed.
"Because a specific @nypost enforcement led us to update the Hacked Materials Policy, we will no longer restrict their account under the terms of the previous policy and they can now Tweet again," the social media giant said.
—New York Post (@nypost) October 30, 2020
Twitter said the previous policy, which had been in place since 2018, was meant to avoid incentivizing hacking by allowing its platform to be a channel for distributing "possibly illegally obtained materials."
But Professor Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Surrey, told Business Insider's Isobel Asher Hamilton that hackers may have plenty of room to exploit the new boundaries.
"The danger seems to be that hacked material could easily be leaked by a third party who could at the very least be sympathetic to the hackers. By reserving the ban to hackers and those acting in 'concert' with the hackers it leaves a yawning gap that is bound to be exploited," he said.
Friday's announcement marked a reversal from Twitter's previous position that the New York Post would need to delete the original offending tweet before it could tweet again.
That tweet contained a link to a story the New York Post published on October 14 purporting to show an email of Hunter Biden communicating with a Ukrainian official about meeting with his father, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, when he was vice president.
The story had several red flags, including how the Post obtained the materials and whether they were legitimate. Business Insider, along with other sites, identified the source of the email who, according to The Daily Beast, repeatedly changed his story when laying out the timeline of how he obtained the information.
Facebook had also moved to restrict the circulation of the article while it was fact-checked.
But Twitter's actions in particular sparked outcry from conservatives who accused it of political bias.
"I find this behavior stunning but not surprising from a platform that has censored the President of the United States," Republican Sen. Josh Hawley wrote in a letter to Twitter. (The First Amendment does not prohibit private companies from limiting speech, only the government.)
CEO Jack Dorsey previously apologized for Twitter's lack of communication around the company's response, calling it "unacceptable."
Twitter has locked prominent users out of accounts in the past. Dorsey previously locked the official Twitter account for President Donald Trump's reelection campaign after it posted clips relating to the Hunter Biden story. Twitter also locked Trump's account after it shared the email address of a New York Post columnist praising him for battling the coronavirus.
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