Op-Ed: Hey Twitter – Have you thought this hacked info thing through?

Posted Oct 16, 2020 by Paul Wallis
Twitter has a new policy which comes after a controversial leak of hacked material by the New York Post regarding Hunter Biden, son of candidate Joe Biden. The new policy looks very much like an own goal for Twitter, which does have better options.
Twitter's move to ban comments wishing for the death of President Donald Trump sparked calls fo...
Twitter's move to ban comments wishing for the death of President Donald Trump sparked calls for the platform to enforce that policy for everyone
Olivier DOULIERY, AFP/File
The hacking part of the story is pretty straightforward. The NY Post published hacked information stolen from Hunter Biden’s laptop by a computer repair shop. Whether this information is accurate is in dispute. Twitter deleted the post on the basis of invasion of privacy, and as part of its policy against the “hack and leak” operations previously conducted by Russia in 2016.
So far so good, you’d think. Now, Twitter has stated that:
1. We will no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them
2. We will label Tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter
Uh-huh. So hacked content can be:
• Anything anyone chooses to publish, including falsified materials allegedly hacked?
• Regardless of security issues, either personal, public, or national?
• Regardless of privacy issues?
• Regardless of legitimate legal needs for suppression of sensitive information, like court cases, elections, etc.?
• Regardless of possible serious risk to subjects of Tweets?
That’s quite an arsenal of information which could do a lot of damage on any scale imaginable. …But because it comes secondhand from a hacker, it must be OK to publish on Twitter?
Section 230, the movie?
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states:
"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" (47 U.S.C. § 230).
…In other words, service users and providers are not considered publishers of information from a secondary source. So Tweets and retweets are OK. (Admittedly, if they weren’t the world would now be one gigantic invasion of privacy class actions including against users and publishers.)
Ironically, the Serial Smearer-In-Chief, Trump, wants to repeal Section 230. That would be interesting, wouldn’t it? ..Particularly for every social media site in the world.
Re-enter the Biden story, with a few twists of its own.
This is where the Hunter Biden story comes back into the picture. The younger Biden was accused “of introducing his father to a Ukrainian executive” with associated emails. There’s no coherent information about whether this contact involved any illegal actions on anyone’s part. That’s the implication, but it’s not verified. It seems that the NY Post, a Murdoch company, didn’t do enough verification of the information in its story. The Trump bot factory seized on this rather meagre bit of “news” as vindication of previous allegations. (Even if it was checked, presumption of innocence comes first.)
US law enforcement is checking the details of the story in relation to Russian operations designed to smear Joe Biden. Readers over the age of 3 months may be surprised to learn that it seems law enforcement is largely focusing on disinformation, rather than “hacking”.
So, Twitter:
• How do you know it’s “republished”? Anyone could set up a know-nothing press release or website mechanism and say it’s been published. (Technically, it has. The problem is that like Breitbart, its mainly whatever looks nice, not necessarily real information.)
• Why play ball with what may well be malicious information or disinformation, from any source?
• “Hacked” is hardly a recommendation for sources. Real whistleblowers don’t hack. They have hard information through their roles in organizations, etc.
• If this Biden thing is just more disinformation, the “hack” argument is dwarfed by the intent and scale of the misinformation. Own goal, to some extent.
The moving hand Tweets, and having Twote, moves on…
Twitter simply doesn’t have to put up with any crap which happens to be Tweeted, however disingenuous or sleazy. Twitter also doesn’t have to have a formal policy of tolerating anything at all. It should be what’s acceptable, as per user agreement, and what’s not.
The better and legally far safer policy would be “at our discretion”, with an ominous silence for the people and bots who pollute social media. (Seriously, the greatest human communications in history, and all we get is garbage? Enough, already.)
Tweet at thy own risk, bozos.