Today, following his letter to Facebook, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey regarding the company’s decision to prevent users from sharing the New York Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden in any capacity.
“I find this behavior stunning but not surprising from a platform that has censored the President of the United States,” writes Senator Hawley. “This statement raises questions about the applicability of your policy, especially because such a pre-emptive removal of a news story on such grounds—and the additional scrutiny you have applied—appears to be an unusual intervention that is not universally applied to all content.”
Senator Hawley asks how Twitter determined that the Post’s story violated their policies, why Twitter locked the Post’s account, and what evidence they have that the story contains disinformation.
Read the full letter here or below.
October 14, 2020
Mr. Jack Dorsey
Chief Executive Officer
355 Market Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94103
Dear Mr. Dorsey:
As you may know, earlier today a representative from Facebook publicly stated that a news story from the New York Post would be censored while undergoing a third-party fact-check. Facebook provided no justification for doing so, a particularly glaring omission in light of the fact that the same news story reported on newly uncovered e-mails suggesting the Democratic nominee for president may have engaged in unethical activity with respect to the foreign business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden.
Sadly, it appears that Facebook is not alone. There are various reports circulating on Twitter of users unable to post a link to the New York Post story, with some users posting responses from Twitter that the content was deemed to be “potentially spammy or unsafe.” I find this behavior stunning but not surprising from a platform that has censored the President of the United States. Thankfully, a congressional letter contains no such restrictions on content distribution, so I have included the link to the story in question in the footnote below for your reference.
A Twitter representative has since stated that “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.” This statement raises questions about the applicability of your policy, especially because such a pre-emptive removal of a news story on such grounds—and the additional scrutiny you have applied—appears to be an unusual intervention that is not universally applied to all content.
I ask that you immediately answer these questions and provide the requisite justifications so that your users can feel confident that you are not seeking to influence the outcome of the presidential election with your content removal decisions.
- How did Twitter determine that the New York Post story was a violation of its policy governing the distribution of hacked materials or approach to blocking links? Will Twitter make its decision-making process with regard to this case of content removal publicly available?
- How did Twitter find that the New York Post was “directly” distributing hacked materials—and thus in violation of its policy—when it is not clear that this is the case?
- Why did Twitter take additional, unprecedented action to lock the primary Twitter account of the New York Post, one of the nation’s most widely distributed newspapers?
- If you have evidence that this news story contains “disinformation” or have otherwise determined that there are inaccuracies with the reporting, will you disclose them to the public so that they can assess your findings?
- Did any member of the Biden-Harris presidential campaign team or any person representing themselves as a representative of the campaign’s interests ask, encourage, or direct Twitter to suppress the New York Post story?
I await your reply.