The underlying story may well be Russian-planted disinformation, but this is still troubling:
Facebook and Twitter took action on Wednesday to limit the distribution of New York Post reporting with unconfirmed claims about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, leading President Trump’s campaign and allies to charge the companies with censorship.
Both social media companies said the moves were aimed at slowing the spread of potentially false information. But they gave few details about how they reached their decisions, sparking criticism about the lack of clarity and consistency with which they apply their rules.
Facebook is “limiting distribution of the story as so-called “fact-checkers” look at the story. Given the checkered history of fact-checkers, it’s hard to feel reassured. Meanwhile, Twitter is being even more aggressive:
Twitter went further. It is blocking users from posting pictures of the emails or links to two of the New York Post’s stories referring to them, spokesman Trenton Kennedy said, citing its rules against sharing “content obtained through hacking that contains private information.”
Users who try to share the links on Twitter are shown a notice saying, “We can’t complete this request because this link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful.”
If a user clicks on links already posted on Twitter, the user is taken to a warning screen saying, “this link may be unsafe,” which they have to click past to read the story. Twitter also required the New York Post to delete its tweet about the story.
Twitter said it decided to block the links because it couldn’t be sure about the origins of the emails.
The problem is that Republicans can point to many, many stories over the years based on sources that were anonymous or shaky, and yet those stories were shared freely on social media.
I understand the concerns of Facebook and Twitter here. Especially given the skeevy nature of the story and the fact that it was laundered through Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani, companies that were blamed for being used by Russian troll farms in 2016 apparently feel the need to show that they are Paying Attention. I will add that I absolutely do not see this as justification for putting the heavy hand of government on private companies’ ability to control what appears on their own Web sites. My guess is that Twitter and Facebook would not do this if they thought Trump was going to win, but they see the Biden landslide coming (as does Rupert Murdoch, by the way), and with it the impending Democrat control of Congress . . . and so I doubt they’re terribly concerned about Republicans’ complaints.
But in the end, this seems like a reckless and one-sided action that is going to fuel the suspicion that social media giants are putting their thumbs on the scale in favor of leftists.
P.S. Your favorite blog is still open to discussion of such matters! I linked the story yesterday, here. And that link remains active and will not come down. Advantage: blogs!