Facebook and Twitter restricted the spread of a disputed New York Post article on Wednesday.
The article in question, which makes claims about former Vice President Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine, is supposedly based on a hard drive that was abandoned at a Delaware computer repair shop in April of last year. Twitter is actively blocking users from both tweeting and direct messaging the article link. Facebook, for its part, is “reducing [the article’s] distribution” for the time being.
We reached out to Facebook in an attempt to determine what, exactly, that means, but received no immediate response. Twitter’s action, however, is hard to miss. Attempts to either tweet a link to the New York Post article, or send it via Direct Message, are currently being blocked.
When reached for comment, a Twitter spokesperson responded, “In line with our Hacked Materials Policy, as well as our approach to blocking URLs, we are taking action to block any links to or images of the material in question on Twitter.”
Twitter insisted that, because the source of the material is dubious, it falls under the aforementioned Hacked Materials Policy. That policy reads, in part: “we don’t permit the use of our services to directly distribute content obtained through hacking that contains private information, may put people in physical harm or danger, or contains trade secrets.”
Natasha Bertrand, Politico’s national security correspondent, shared a statement from the Biden campaign on Twitter. It disputed a key claim of the New York Post article, reading, in part: “we have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”
New: Biden campaign responds to NY Post story. “The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story…moreover, we have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.” pic.twitter.com/yB2N5mvsXb
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) October 14, 2020
That social media platforms would attempt to restrict the sharing of hacked materials is not new. Twitter, notably, took a controversial stance against those attempting to share Blue Leaks police documents earlier this summer. However, blocking an article from a media outlet like the New York Post is very different.
As the U.S. presidential election fast approaches, it’s clear social media platforms don’t want to be complicit in any possible disinformation campaigns. What that means for Twitter and Facebook going forward when it comes to blocking articles from media outlets, in the next three weeks and after the election, isn’t clear.