Twitter and Facebook's latest moderation moves could cost them their immunity

Monday, October 19, 2020 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures
_Wondering why the Twitter drama isn't #trending on Twitter_

Wondering why the Twitter drama isn't #trending on Twitter

The article that has Twitter trending… isn’t trending on Twitter. It all started on Wednesday with an unconfirmed New York Post article showing allegedly hacked emails from Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. TLDR: the emails are unverified, but unflattering to both Bidens — and they were provided to the NYP by Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani (read: political agenda). Twitter and Facebook limited the article’s distribution with two very different approaches…

  • Facebook limited its visibility — FB algorithms didn’t place posts linking to the story as highly in people’s feeds, curbing sharing.
  • Twitter full-on blocked people from posting links to the story and emails, citing rules against sharing hacked content.

Think fast… Social giants usually get heat for lagging on moderation, so their swift reaction raised eyebrows. Now, they’re getting criticized for lack of transparency and consistency in how/when they intervene. The moves backfired:

  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will likely get subpoenaed by the Senate tomorrow. Dorsey was also already set to testify on Oct 28 along with Facebook’s Zuck (great timing).
  • The story got even more attention. Biden/NYP was the #1 search on Google Trends on Wednesday with 1M+ hits.
  • Twitter apologized. It reversed its decision and said it’ll no longer remove hacked content unless it’s directly shared by hackers.

This could be the breaking point on Section 230… That Congressional legislation protects social media companies from being liable for what users post. They can’t be sued for posts, but also can’t be punished for “reasonable moderation.” This drama has revived calls for repealing 230, including from President Trump. The case: if social networks act like editors, then they should be accountable for all content on their platforms. Losing 230 immunity would be world-shattering for them — imagine if Facebook got sued every time someone shared something offensive or false.