The Decision That Informed Twitter’s Move Against the NY Post

The process was similar to a fateful moderation decision from May

Wearing a face mask to reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden points to supporters during a drive-in voter mobilization event at Miramar Regional Park on October 13, 2020, in Miramar, Florida. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A story in the New York Post Wednesday morning guaranteed a wild day in both Washington and the nation’s newsrooms. These days, that tends to make for a chaotic day in the executive offices of Silicon Valley-based social networks, too. But the chaos unfolds in slightly different ways at Facebook and Twitter.

The story, which revolved around supposedly incriminating emails found on a laptop that may or may not have belonged to Hunter Biden, tested the internet platforms’ misinformation policies at the most critical time. Facebook responded first. It left the story up but limited the speed at which it could spread while awaiting a verdict from its fact-checking partners. The company said this was standard procedure under its policies on fact-checking and political misinformation, though it struggled to immediately provide prior examples in which it limited a post’s distribution before its fact-checkers had weighed in. (Here’s one.)

Twitter acted second but more aggressively: It began blocking all sharing of links to the Post story, or even screenshots of its text. It cited a different policy, one that prohibits the sharing of “hacked material.” That policy has been enforced inconsistently at best, and many Twitter users on both ends of the political spectrum were quick to criticize the move as heavy-handed.

We’ll learn more about the decisions and their fallout in the coming days. In the meantime, Twitter’s vice president of global communications, Brandon Borrman, confirmed to me Wednesday that it largely followed a decision-making process that I wrote about in May, after Twitter’s decision to fact-check a Trump tweet for the first time. You can read all about that process here:

One key difference between the two social media giants: Unlike Facebook, whose VP of public policy, Joel Kaplan, is often reported to be influential in its content enforcement decisions, Twitter told me its policy and communications teams are excluded from the decision-making process, and looped in only after a verdict has been reached. The point of that separation is to avoid letting PR considerations and relationships on Capitol Hill dictate enforcement decisions.

Senior Writer, OneZero, at Medium

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