Considering the ongoing problems with the US politics and the accusations of media bias, it looks unavoidable that there would be a serious conflict, or a sort of it, amid the Presidential Election campaign
Lately, The New York Post has published a couple of articles that explained in details the accusations against the Presidential candidate Joe Biden regarding international business deals done by his son, Hunter Biden, and claimed interference coming by Biden Snr. The application of the investigation is that Joe Biden has acted in a bad way and abused his powers as Vice President to secure his son’s advantages. Biden has denied all these claims.
Given the nature of the accusations that are not proved as yet and the particular details within the NY post articles, both Facebook and Twitter to enterprise measurements to decrease sharing these articles, pending fact-checking. This is the first time for these social platforms taking this measure, and every one of them has basically halted or slowed the spread of these claims as they are still under investigation.
So, Facebook has flagged related content for fact-checking, yet didn’t stop users from sharing the articles. While Twitter has blocked users from tweeting any links to the content.
Which has made some US Senators ready for war.
According to The Wall Street Journal:
“The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to issue a subpoena on Tuesday to Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey after the social-media company blocked a pair of New York Post articles that made new allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which his campaign has denied.”
As per WSJ, Dorsey is being selected as Twitter banned users from sharing links to the articles directly, as contrary to facebook’s approach to halting the distribution. That would see Dorsey forced to answer questions about his company approach, to front the Senate, while also, various Senators have restated their calls to cancel of Section 230 laws, that give digital platforms some sort of protection from liability on content posted on their websites.
Which, indeed, US President Donald Trump has been looking for, for some time:
So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of “Smoking Gun” emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the @NYPost. It is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician. REPEAL SECTION 230!!! /g1RJFpIVUZ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2020
Also, Lindsey Graham and Republican Senators Ted Cruz have called for action, naming it ‘active censorship’ and ‘election interference’. However, indeed, social media platforms are privately owned businesses and not public properties. They can set the rules for their own platforms and do whatever they like in them.
Will that need to change – and will this lead to increased action against the major social platforms?
The event confirms the significance of social platforms in our wide communication landscape. Also, it reflects the potential risk of distributed misinformation, and how wrong claims would get popular on social media websites. Facebook and Twitter are cautious of playing a role in distributing dangerous misinformation and are looking to be warier. However, that then opens up some further accusations of political bias and oppressing specific stories based on their personal judgments.
However, to be fair, Twitter has already blocked the articles based on its hacker materials policy not based on its rumorous content.
Commentary on or discussion about hacked materials, such as articles that cover them but do not include or link to the materials themselves, aren’t a violation of this policy. Our policy only covers links to or images of hacked material themselves.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 14, 2020
Therefore, Twitter is basically stating that it has a particular detail contained in these reports that are the issue, not the claims themselves. Twitter has admitted that its connection around the actions in this matter was not communicated adequately, which has to be improved. Facebook has only restricted the reach of its reports to align with the approach of third-party fact-checking.
The platforms have acted quickly and carefully in many ways to respond to any questionable information, which is progress in their respective procedures. However, you can see how the event reinforces the claims of any political bias accusations by social media platforms and the role they play in the wide debate as well.
The authenticity of the allegations then turns to be minor – whether you think the reports are valid or not is a part of the wider story that Facebook and Twitter are working to limit information. Also, this would be a lot bigger point of discussion, and could, of course, drive to more shifts to how social media platforms’ action such in the future.
Will this be the significant story of the US Election? In 2016, the narrative was about how social media platforms caused President Trump to be elected. Maybe this time, the headline will be the opposite. However, then, what does that mean for the social media platforms moving forward, regardless of who is the winner?
There is indeed more to come in this respect.
UPDATE: Twitter has come with a new update now on its Hacked Materials Policy, which means that it will no more ban similar reports on the same basis.