Twitter revises policy on posting hacked materials after Hunter Biden story

Materials will be allowed, as long as the hacker or those involved in the hack didn't directly share them.

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Twitter has revised its policy on posting of hacked materials.

Angela Lang/CNET

Twitter late Thursday announced a revamped policy on the posting of content acquired through a hack, a day after the social network came under fire for limiting the reach of a New York Post article on Joe Biden's son because it was based on hacked materials.

The Post's story was based on emails purportedly obtained from a laptop Hunter Biden left in a Delaware repair shop in 2019, but Twitter limited the article's reach, citing a policy against distributing hacked materials. The move led to accusations of censorship by Twitter.

Twitter said it will no longer remove posts with hacked materials unless it's being shared by the hackers or others working with them. It said it will also label the tweets to provide context instead of preventing them from being shared on the platform.

The changes are intended "to address the concerns that there could be many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter's purpose of serving the public conversation," Twitter Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde said in a series of tweets Thursday evening.

The new policy is a bit of an about-face for Twitter, which on Wednesday cited its policies against the distribution of hacked materials when it opted to block any links to or images of the New York Post story alleging a connection between Hunter Biden and a Ukrainian energy executive.

Twitter also said the Post article contained images that included personal and private information such as email addresses and phone numbers, which is against the social network's rules.

Read more: Facebook, Twitter are fighting fake news. Why you still need to be careful

On Friday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the company's decision to block links was wrong and that its aim is to provide context.

"Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix. Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that," the Twitter CEO said in a tweet.

Twitter's move earlier this week to reduce the spread of a story critical of the Democratic presidential nominee's son raised questions about how social networks fact-check political content and drew criticism from Republicans and the Trump campaign, which accused the social networks of interfering in the coming election. Conservatives have long alleged that their speech is censored by Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, a charge the companies have repeatedly denied.

Earlier Thursday, Senate Republicans said they plan to subpoena Jack Dorsey, requiring the Twitter CEO to testify on Oct. 23 about the platform's decision to block the New York Post article.

"Never before have we seen active censorship of a major press publication with serious allegations of corruption of one of the two candidates for president," Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday during a press briefing on Thursday.

Twitter declined to comment on that accusation.

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