Twitter said Friday it's no longer blocking links to a that contains allegations about the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden following backlash from Republican lawmakers who accused Twitter of censoring conservative speech.
The company had initially blocked links to the article on Wednesday because the content violated its rules against the distribution of hacked materials and another policy against posting people's personal information such as emails and phone numbers. The New York Post article cites alleged leaked emails that the news outlet says show Biden's son, Hunter, introduced the US presidential candidate to a Ukrainian energy executive. Social networks have been worried that hackers will leak documents as part of an attempt to meddle in the Nov. 3 election.
On Thursday, amid pressure from conservatives, Twitter changed its policy on hacked materials. On Friday, it added that the information included in the New York Post article is also no longer considered private because it's widely available in the press and other digital platforms. The reversal shows how quickly content moderation decisions can change amid increased political pressure and scrutiny. Senate Republicans have said they plan to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about alleged anti-conservative bias.
Twitter's actions were tougher than Facebook, which reduced the distribution of the article as it was being fact-checked by its third-party partners. Biden's campaign has challenged the accuracy of the New York Post article. The decisions from both companies, though, drew criticism from President Donald Trump and other high-profile conservatives who accused the social networks of suppressing their views. Both companies have denied that political beliefs play a role in how they moderate content. On Thursday, Twitter said it will start labeling content with hacked materials rather than block them on the site. The company said it would only do so if the hacked content was shared directly by hackers or people working with them.
Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School, told The New York Times, which reported earlier about Twitter's latest actions, that tech platforms "are merely reacting to public pressure and therefore will be susceptible to politician influence for some time to come."
Some Twitter users, including Trump's campaign, tweeted this week that their accounts got locked unless they removed the link to the New York Post article. Twitter hasn't shared any data about how many links to the New York Post article the company has blocked.