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Twitter to change its hacked materials policy following New York Post controversy

Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley and Akiko Fujita discuss the updates Twitter has made to its hacked materials policy.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Let's turn our attention to Twitter now. Shares there down about 3/10 of a percent, certainly off of the lows that we saw yesterday, after the company reversed course on its hacked materials policy on its platform.

This all, of course, coming on the back of the "New York Post" story that tied-- that raised questions about Joe Biden, as well as his son, Hunter Biden, and the former vice president's involvement in Hunter Biden's former company, where he sat on the board at Burisma over in Ukraine.

Let's bring in Dan Howley, who's been tracking this for us. And Dan, that's sort of a muddled way to talk about what exactly this story was and why Twitter jumped in immediately, along with Facebook, to try and limit the distribution. But just 24 hours after that, we saw a huge backlash, especially from conservative lawmakers, who said this is another sign that these platforms are censoring conservative voices.

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, this is just, I mean, complete red meat for conservatives who have been kind of championing this cause, which, by the way, has never been proven. And it doesn't make sense because these are, after all, companies that want all users, as many as possible, on their platform. And often, the most amplified stories are the ones based on conservative viewpoints on Facebook.

But that's besides the point. What Twitter is trying to do here now is kind of prevent additional damage. So we saw that Ajit Pai, the head of the FCC, basically saying, oh, we're going to take a look at Section 230. We'll have some kind of recommendation going forward.

And so now, what Twitter is doing is saying, OK, here's what the problem was with that story. Their take was, it wasn't necessarily the story itself, but rather, that it had personal information that was hacked. So now what they're doing is saying, we will not censor or block stories that come from publications using hacked data.

If it is data that's coming from a hacker or someone working in concert with a hacker, then the information would be blocked. But if it's from a publication publishing that kind of data, it will not be, unless that data contains some kind of identifiable information that would point to an individual.

And so that's why Twitter says it's still blocking that story at this point. So they really seem to want to clarify exactly what their thinking was behind this and what they're thinking is going forward. And I think this is a way for them to hedge.

Obviously, we talked about, you know, the idea that there could be a blue wave come this election. It seems as though the social networks, which, for years, have kind of sat in the back, you know, the end of whether or not they should do anything about content on their platforms outside of Twitter, which has done a decent job of trying to ensure that a certain speech isn't spread widely.

Now it seems that they're taking a reverse course, where they're trying to ensure that they go and they try to censor content that may be objectionable to certain people, almost as though they recognize that there may not be conservative favor in Congress now after the election.

So they want to get on the good side of the Democrats, who are favoring some kind of limitations to different types of objectionable speech on those platforms. So it looks like they're trying to kind of flip it now.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Dan, really quickly, Twitter has kind of largely escaped the ire of these lawmakers at a time when we've been talking about the anti-trust cases that are likely to come forward. You know, Twitter hasn't necessarily been mentioned there.

We've got, what, two weeks, 2 and 1/2 weeks until the election. How is this likely to elevate this discussion that Republicans have been wanting to have about these platforms? And can we expect any kind of action in such a short period of time?

DAN HOWLEY: I don't think we're going to see anything as far as antitrust or anything along those lines. You saw Jim Jordan, obviously, the representative from Ohio, kind of try to bring this up-- he has this little pet peeve about social networks-- during the antitrust hearings, which really should have been focused on antitrust.

But I don't think we're going to see anything in particular, unless it has something to do with Section 230. And that is a bipartisan issue, Section 230, but it just comes from different angles. Republicans say that, you know, oh, our voices are being silenced, even though, you know, one of the most influential Twitter users on the planet is a conservative president, and a lot of conservative voices are amplified on Facebook.

Democrats, meanwhile, are saying, look, we don't want this kind of speech on these platforms. We want to make sure that they're not allowed to promote anything or get away with spreading disinformation or hate speech, as we see it. So it's really these two different ways of approaching this problem that they see with Section 230. And, you know, that I don't think is going to go away with an election.