- Twitter’s decision to limit stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop has drawn bipartisan criticism.
- Although the laptop has been authenticated, some reports of its contents have not been confirmed.
- Some lawmakers have since called to repeal Section 230, a law “that created the internet.”
Newly published internal communications regarding Twitter’s decision to strangle a New York Post article on Hunter Biden’s laptop in late 2020 revealed that the social platform faced widespread bipartisan criticism over its decision . The criticism has since escalated a move to repeal Section 230, which could change the internet forever.
Matt Taibbi, who writes the Substack “TK News” newsletter, on Friday posted a thread of tweets it titled “The Twitter Files” which included screenshots of internal correspondence on the social platform’s content moderation system. In a note to his readers on Substack, Taibbi wrote that he had to “agree to certain terms” in order to release the files, though he didn’t reveal what those terms were.
When reached by phone, Taibbi declined to comment to Insider.
Much of Taibbi’s thread focused on Twitter’s handling of the New York Post’s October 2020 article about Hunter Biden’s laptop, which the Post said was left in a workshop. Delaware repair. Early reports of the laptop were met with skepticism by social media platforms – which faced heavy criticism over content moderation following the 2016 controversy over the candidate’s emails of the time, Hillary Clinton — and warnings from law enforcement about disinformation campaigns being spread through social apps.
Elon Musk and representatives for Twitter did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself confirmed in an August interview with Joe Rogan that his platforms removed reports of Hunter Biden’s laptop before the 2020 election, saying it “fits the pattern.” misinformation that the FBI had advised Facebook to monitor. Although the laptop and some of its contents have since been authenticated as belonging to Biden, some reports of its contents have not been confirmed.
The documents released by Taibbi related to internal discussions among Twitter staff regarding the laptop’s history and the ultimate decision to slow its reach on the platform and label it using the “hardware” policy. hacked” from the platform. At the time, the veracity of the information was in question and it was unclear whether the material reported on the laptop was obtained legally, although critics were quick to question why Twitter chose to strangle the material.
“I say this as a total supporter of Biden and convinced that he has done nothing wrong,” Taibbi reported Representative Ro Khanna wrote in an email to Twitter’s chief legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, at the time. “But the story has now become more about censorship than relatively innocuous emails and it has become more important than it would have been. It also leads to serious efforts to restrict Section 230 – many of which would have been a mistake.”
Section 230 is a clause of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which its advocates have called “the most important law protecting speech on the Internet”. The 26-word phrase “who created the internet” limits the legal liability of technology platforms hosting user-generated content – i.e. a social media platform like Twitter cannot be held legally liable for any illegal content posted by its users.
The article states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be deemed to be the publisher or speaker of information provided by another information content provider.” Tech companies see a potential reversal as a threat to free speech that would force smaller hosts to shut down their sites or face legal liability for what their users post.
Representatives for Khanna did not respond to questions about the congressman’s current position on whether or not to repeal Section 230.
“I believe our Constitution and our First Amendment are sacred,” Rep. Khanna of California said in a statement emailed to Insider. “As a congressman who represents Silicon Valley, I felt that Twitter’s actions were a violation of First Amendment principles, so I raised these concerns. Our democracy can only thrive if we are open to a marketplace of ideas and if we engage with people we disagree with.”
Khanna wasn’t alone in criticizing Twitter’s decision – which the site’s former trust and safety chief has since said was a mistake. Taibbi reported 9 Republicans and 3 Democrats polled by a research firm in 2020 also disagreed with the decision – and bipartisan calls for reforming or overturning Section 230 have grown since the Hunter Biden laptop story .
“I am more determined than ever to strip Big Tech (Twitter) of the Section 230 protections that allow them to be immune from lawsuits,” said Senator Lindsay Graham. tweeted in January 2021, just months after the Hunter Biden story surfaced and soon after he introduced legislation to repeal Section 230.
Donald Trump has made Section 230 a core issue of his presidency, singling out Twitter for what he called ‘selective censorship’ after the platform added warning labels to several of his tweets about voting by mail . In the final weeks of his presidency, Trump vetoed a $740 billion defense bill, in part because he failed to repeal Section 230.
Republican criticism of Section 230 often focuses on claims that tech platforms censor conservative viewpoints, while Democratic critics say the law allows social enterprises to avoid doing more to fight against hate speech and disinformation.
“I call on Congress to get rid of special immunity for social media companies and impose much stricter transparency requirements on all of them,” Al Jazeera reported, Biden said earlier this year, calling for repeal section 230.
If Section 230 were repealed, free speech advocates fear the digital landscape would change dramatically – by making website hosts liable for content posted on their sites, moderators would likely eliminate the legal risk potential by severely limiting what they allow users to post or post. closing completely.
“Repealing Section 230 is a sweeping move that would disrupt the internet, punishing successful businesses and internet users for anti-social minority behavior,” reads an essay by Will Duffield, a political analyst for the group. reflection Cato Institute. “The piling up of legal liability on platforms will not make them more thoughtful or judicious. It will shut down some and exclude others from all but the most innocuous sentiments.”
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