Commentary

Dorsey Right To Apologize For Twitter Censorship

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week apologized for the social-media company's attempt to censor the New York Post, a necessary step in revamping the company's content moderation policies. The apology isn't likely to quell critics who see Silicon Valley's stranglehold on digital media as a threat to press freedom and democratic values.

As of press time, Republicans planned to compel Dorsey to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week to explain why it temporarily suppressed a potentially embarrassing story for the Joe Biden campaign. Instead, the company's actions have become yet another occasion for Dorsey to prostrate himself before lawmakers in what has become a ritual for technology CEOs.

Twitter's latest offense was shutting down the accounts for the New York Post, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnamy, the "Team Trump" campaign and Politico reporter Jake Sherman, among others. Twitter claimed without evidence that the NYP violated its policy about publishing "hacked materials."

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The rule may be well intended in preventing illegally obtained information like people's credit-card numbers and private photos from being shared on Twitter, but the New York Post isn't a criminal organization. The newspaper was doing its job in reporting a story that may help people decide whether to vote for Biden.


As vice president, he had overseen the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy during a period when his son Hunter was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. The newspaper reported on emails that it said were between Hunter and an executive at Burisma, who thanked him for “giving an opportunity to meet” his father.

There are plenty of questions about the story that deserve greater scrutiny, including whether a laptop with the emails was Hunter's property. According to the report, the laptop was left at a repair shop in Delaware that copied its hard drive and gave the contents to Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer of President Trump.

As of this writing, the Biden campaign hasn't refuted the authenticity of the emails, and the NYP continues to report more stories about the laptop's contents. Twitter has blocked the newspaper's stories for violating other rules about sharing private personal information, Politico reported.

Critics of the NYP have said without evidence that the emails are part of a disinformation operation, possibly orchestrated by Russia. That's certainly possible, and the Senate Homeland Security Committee is looking into those claims. The timing of the story could be considered suspect, but what election is without an "October surprise"?

Twitter also claimed it has a policy against "content obtained without authorization." If that's the case, then it needs to shut down hundreds of other stories based on leaks out of the Trump administration.

As a private company, Twitter isn't obligated to publish anyone's tweets. It routinely removes offensive content like hate speech and child pornography that scare away advertisers worried about brand safety, and that's a good policy. However, censoring a news organization is an abuse of the protections that Twitter enjoys under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Twitter's censorship is disappointing, and I've been a fan of the platform since opening my first account in 2011. At that time, I worked as an editor at Bloomberg News, which started equipping its financial-data terminals to show real-time Twitter feeds as algorithmic trading programs re-priced securities, based on tweets from companies and reputable news sources. A lot of new gets made on Twitter, and it would be a shame to lose that to censorship.
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