Twitter was wrong to block weblinks to an unverified political story, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Friday, as the company responded to criticism over its handling of the story that had prompted cries of censorship from the right.
“Straight blocking of URLs was wrong, and we updated our policy and enforcement to fix,” he tweeted. “Our goal is to attempt to add context, and now we have capabilities to do that.”
Dorsey was weighing in after an executive at the social media company announced changes late on Thursday to its policy on hacked content following an onslaught of criticism.
“Twitter will no longer remove hacked material unless its directly shared by hackers or those working with them,” the company’s head of legal, policy, trust and safety, Vijaya Gadde, said in a Twitter thread.
And instead of blocking links from being shared, tweets will be labeled to provide context, Gadde said.
“We want 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,” she said.
Twitter and Facebook had moved quickly this week to limit the spread of the story published by the conservative-leaning New York Post, which cited unverified emails from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son that were reportedly discovered by President Donald Trumps allies. The story has not been confirmed by other publications.
Twitter initially responded by banning users from sharing links to the article in tweets and direct messages because it violated the company’s policy prohibiting hacked content. But it didn’t alert users about why they couldn’t share the link until hours later.
Dorsey had first tweeted that it was unacceptable the company hadn’t provided more context around its action. A little over 24 hours later, Gadde announced the company was making changes after receiving significant feedback (from critical to supportive)” about how it enforced the policy.
Twitter was restored on Thursday evening after a technical problem caused a global outage of nearly two hours on the social media platform used by hundreds of millions worldwide.
The outage marked a new setback for the company, which for the past two days has been fending off accusations of bias over its decision to block a news report critical of Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden.
“We are continuing to monitor the issue, and things appear to have returned to normal,” Twitter’s application programming interface site said on Friday.
The California-based company tweeted earlier: “We had some trouble with our internal systems and don’t have any evidence of a security breach or hack.” According to downdetector.com, users on every continent had reported being unable to use the platform, but the outages were concentrated on the east and west coasts of the United States, as well as Japan. The outage appeared to have started around 2130 GMT.
The Twitter shutdown came at a delicate moment. The company this week took the dramatic step of reducing the reach of a New York Post article critical of Biden, drawing a harsh rebuke from conservatives.
Thursday’s outage was the latest technical breakdown to knock Twitter offline. The platform experienced an hour-long outage in July 2019, one lasting several hours a year ago and yet another last February.
More worrisome are hacking attacks on popular social media platforms like Twitter.
In July, prominent Americans including former president Barack Obama, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Tesla chief Elon Musk saw their Twitter accounts hacked.
The attack targeted at least 130 accounts, with tweets posted by the intruders duping people into sending $100,000 in Bitcoin, supposedly in exchange for double the amount sent.
Several people aged 17 to 22 have since been charged for the hack, in which they targeted Twitter employees for personal passcodes to get into the company’s internal systems.
In September 2019, Twitter experienced a brief but embarrassing attack: the account of its founder Jack Dorsey was hacked and erratic and offensive messages were posted from it.