Twitter claimed it would reverse course late Thursday and no longer prohibit users from tweeting links to websites with hacked material – as long as the hackers didn’t release it themselves. “We will no longer remove hacked content unless it is shared directly by hackers or those who work with them,” said Vijaya Gadde, general counsel of Twitter.
The decision – a response to the conservative uproar over blocking one unconfirmed, inconsistent and in error A smear test on a presidential candidate weeks before an election would have better aligned Twitter’s guidelines with the way US law deals with journalists republishing stolen material. that is, it generally (but not always) protects their right to do so provided they are not involved in the actual theft.
Unfortunately, it turns out that Twitter’s decision to abolish the rule applies unevenly, which is also appropriate. The rule itself was never administered fairly. The best obvious example of Twitter’s selective enforcement of the rule is WikiLeaks, which exists solely to post stolen secrets. Many, if not most, have been stolen electronically.
If a reporter had emailed a Twitter spokesperson last week whether the platforms are banning accounts that distribute hacked email, the spokesperson would have said, “Yes, we do” and offered a link to the company rules. But if the same reporter then asked, “Well, what about all those stolen 2016 Democratic emails?” The speaker would have quietly withdrawn from his keyboard and might have gone outside to smoke.
This is exactly how Twitter responded to me in June when it decided to prevent users from sharing links to the ddosecrets.com website. The website, operated by a handful of journalists and transparency activists under the name DDoSecrets, is still banned from Twitter, despite CEO Jack Dorsey claiming it was “wrong”. (Try tweeting yourself.) Twitter also banned the @DDoSecrets account and it remains banned to this day.
Twitter has taken aggressive action against DDoSecrets to release one of the largest repositories for leaked US law enforcement files – 270 gigabytes worth of documents from more than 200 law enforcement agencies from 1996. A decent chunk that includes things like outdated training manuals and old FBI’s -Bulletins are completely harmless if not objectively boring.
crime is downAfter all, 90 percent of cops learn how to deal with sitting on their asses all day.
After Twitter’s announcement on Thursday, I was wondering why the @DDoSecrets account is still banned and why users are still prohibited from posting links to its website. Twitter did not respond. Not even to tell me it’s “working on”.
I also asked why Twitter has banned users from tweeting links to another DDoSecrets website, AssangeLeaks.org, that does not actually contain any stolen or hacked material. According to Lorax Horne, the website’s editor, Twitter blocked the URL if the page only showed a countdown clock. Today it only offers links to 10-year-old chat logs – possibly evidence that the US government is using the extradition case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“No, they weren’t hacked,” Horne said over the chat logs. Unsuccessfully, DDoSecrets has filed several appeals to clarify how Twitter’s rules are being enforced.
“They blocked our entire damn website and every subsequent website we published,” said Horne. “Reddit is now also blocking our URL. But Twitter blocked us first, so get yourself a special trophy. “
Twitter’s silence is likely the result of it already got what it wanted: a series of headlines this morning explaining something that is obviously not true.
This story will be updated whenever we hear from Twitter.