The platforms started doing what people concerned about disinformation have been asking for, and immediately came under fire from people concerned about censorship.
When The New York Post published a story supposedly incriminating Hunter Biden "YouTube largely did nothing, Facebook deprioritized the Post story (slowing spread until 3rd party factchecking) and Twitter initially moved to ban all links" & locking accounts that link to it, incl. prominent Republicans. Cue outrage from the right, relief from the left (cf The Dress?). Damned if you do, or don't.
These actions were developed post-2016 to avoid foreign disinfo, but the problem in 2020 is often domestic, while foreign actors have learnt to be more subtle.
While it looked a lot like the Russian-driven, Wikileaks-hosted 2016 "October surprise" Hillary Clinton email scandal, this year it's Rudy Guliani pushing the story to an American newspaper. Is it true, or disinfo? Can the NYP be trusted, or not? If platforms decide to not allow NYP links, or refuse links to stories based on confidential sources because whistleblowers provide 'hacked materials', how is that not censorship?
How are they supposed to know if NYP followed proper journalistic procedures? Platforms don't have time to find out - not acting quickly is to not act.
Twitter: better to be aggressive early (using 'hacked materials' policy) & then let it go if OK, rather than trying to catch something once it's flying. Then reversed their decision, went to the middle ground (labelling) similar to Facebook.
Platforms can't/shouldn't have to referee journalism, but the risk of deplatforming might improve journalism - the story developed into a discussion on journalistic process, which helped.
The story still travelled very widely - it wasn't suppressed - but the attention was different: journalists dug into the disinformation programme behind the story earlier. We are all now more aware.
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