Twitter Unfreezes New York Post Account

October 30, 2020 Updated: October 31, 2020

Twitter on Friday lifted a freeze on the New York Post’s account and said it had changed its policy on hacked materials.

Twitter said that The New York Post can now send tweets again. The outlet had been blocked since Oct. 14 after it published and shared articles about alleged overseas business dealings of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden. The social media platform said that the articles shared had violated the company’s rules on private information and “hacked materials.”

The newspaper shared a post that featured Twitter’s logo, a blue bird, flying out of a cage. The caption reads, “Free Bird! Twitter backs down, finally unlocks Post account after Biden ban.”

Earlier this week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey faced questioning during a Senate hearing to discuss reforming a provision of the Communications Decency Act with big tech companies. Dorsey told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Oct. 28 during the virtual hearing that the New York Post “can log into their account” and “delete their original tweet that fell under our original enforcement actions” before posting again.

“They can tweet the exact same … article and it would go through.”

jack dorsey
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies remotely during a hearing to discuss reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act with big tech companies in Washington, on Oct. 28, 2020. (Greg Nash/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A Twitter spokesperson had told the Post on Oct. 15: “While we’ve updated the policy, we don’t change enforcement retroactively. You will still need to delete the tweet to regain access to your account.”

The New York Post never deleted its post. Twitter said on Friday it is “willing to update and adjust them when we encounter new scenarios or receive important feedback from the public,” citing the New York Post situation as an example.

“In response, we’re updating our 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,” it added. “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.”

There’s no evidence that the Post’s report was based on hacked materials. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he provided the New York Post with a laptop hard drive that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden, which was reportedly left at a computer repair shop in Delaware last year and never picked up. Reports have suggested that whoever left the laptop at the store never paid their bill.

sen ted cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) appears on a monitor as he asks questions to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey remotely during the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing ‘Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?’, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Oct. 28, 2020. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via Reuters)

Cruz later said that Dorsey, Twitter, and Facebook “made the unilateral” decision to block the Post over its reporting on the Bidens’ dealings with the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings and a Chinese Communist Party-linked firm.

Dorsey flatly rejected Cruz’s accusation that Twitter is attempting to censor the New York Post or other news outlets, saying they have to agree to Twitter’s “terms of service.”

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing was titled “Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?” Republican lawmakers used most of their time during the hearing to accuse the companies of selective censorship, while Democrats primarily focused on insufficient action against misinformation that interferes with the election.

Section 230

The Section 230 provision shields tech companies from liability for content posted on their platforms while letting them moderate content, including on political discourse.

Section 230 states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Attorney General William Barr said in May that the provision was adopted 25 years ago, with the purpose of allowing websites “to say that [they’re] not responsible for the content of that third-party information.”

The provision also “tried to encourage these companies to take down things like child pornography or human trafficking advertising … by saying, if you act to remove this kind of objectionable material, you won’t be liable for taking it down,” Barr said.

“Now it’s been completely stretched to allow what have become really behemoths who control a lot of the flow of information in our society to engage in censorship of that information and to act as editors and publishers of the material,” he noted.

Tom Ozimek and Reuters contributed to this report.

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