Twitter Unblocks Account of New York Post, Which Claims Victory in Standoff Over Biden Stories
Twitter, in another policy flip-flop, unblocked the New York Post’s account Friday after a 16-day freeze over the newspaper’s series of disputed stories on Hunter Biden.
“How Tweet It Is: Twitter Backs Down, Unlocks Post’s Account,” the newspaper gloated in the headline on its story on the issue, which had accused Twitter of holding it “hostage.”
In what has become a flashpoint for Republicans alleging election interference and censorship of conservatives, Twitter on Oct. 14 blocked users from tweeting unconfirmed New York Post articles alleging that Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, engaged in corrupt business dealing in Ukraine and China.
Twitter initially said the Post stories ran afoul of its “hacked materials” policy, as the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper claimed the source for its Biden exposés was info supplied by Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who allegedly obtained it from a laptop of unknown origin that had been abandoned in computer-repair shop.
A day later, Twitter revised that policy to allow tweets that discuss hacked material and to label (instead of block) posts that link to such content. The company maintained that the New York Post needed to delete six tweets linking to the Biden articles before the paper’s account could be reinstated.
On Friday (Oct. 30), Twitter made another update: The social network said that enforcement decisions made under policies that are subsequently changed will no longer be applied retroactively. “This means that 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 Twitter Safety team said in a thread.
“Our policies are living documents,” Twitter said. “We’re willing to update and adjust them when we encounter new scenarios or receive important feedback from the public.”
In a statement, News Corp communications chief Jim Kennedy called Twitter’s decision to unfreeze the Post account “an important moment for journalism and for the freedom of the press.”
“There is no evidence whatsoever that the documents are not authentic and the arbitrary blocking of the Post was a significant moment during a critical time in this election season,” Kennedy said. “It also had a negative commercial impact, but the Post team was determined that principle should prevail and it has.” Kennedy added, “Alexander Hamilton, the paper’s founder, looks down tonight with a broad smile and a sense of pride.”
The Post said its Twitter account picked up around 190,000 followers during the lockout; it now has about 2 million.
The incident sparked new calls from Republicans to revise or revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives internet companies latitude to remove content that violates their policies while shielding them from legal liability. At a hearing this Wednesday, GOP senators attacked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for blocking the Post stories.
“Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked rhetorically. Dorsey denied that Twitter’s enforcement decisions favor Democratic politicians or issues; he previously acknowledged that blocking the articles’ URLs without context was wrong.
At the same hearing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified that his company limited distribution of the New York Post’s initial Biden story in part based on an FBI warning about potential “hack and leak operations” that could be “part of a foreign manipulation attempt” ahead of the U.S. election.
For the third quarter, Twitter reported a net gain of just 1 million monetizable daily active users, to 187 million worldwide — its slowest growth in at least three years and well below analyst expectations of a gain of 10 million. While Twitter blew away Wall Street’s revenue estimates, the company’s stock plunged 21% Friday on the miss on user growth and the company’s uncertain ad forecast for Q4 amid the looming U.S. elections.