The Twitter ban has practically doubled consciousness of Biden misinformation


The news: When Twitter banned and then banned links to a questionable New York Post article about Joe Biden's son Hunter, it was its stated intention to prevent people from spreading harmful false material as America moves into the final leg of its campaign. However, thanks to the cycle of misinformation – and the claim by conservatives that social media platforms are deliberately censoring their views – Twitter managed to do the opposite of what it intended.

According to Zignal Labs, a media intelligence company, the Post's shares "almost doubled" after Twitter began suppressing it. The ill-conceived ban sparked what is known as the Streisand Effect and helped turn a sketchy article into a must-share blockbuster. And then on Friday the Republican National Committee filed a complaint against Twitter by the Federal Election Commission alleging the ban was "an illegal, in-kind political contribution by companies to the Biden campaign."

The prohibition: Twitter blocked portions of the story as part of its policy against hacked materials, in part because of dubious sourcing by the New York Post, the company said. The article also included screenshots of emails with unedited addresses. According to NBC News, federal investigators are now examining whether they are tied to a foreign intelligence campaign.

On Thursday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the URL blocking was "wrong" and that the company had changed its policies and enforcement procedures to respond to outrage over the decision.

The data: Zignal Labs tracked mentions and portions of Hunter Biden history this week. Zignal looked at the number of Twitter shares of the URL – including original tweets, retweets, and quote tweets – and immediately after Twitter introduced the block, it saw the shares increase from around 5.5 thousand shares every 15 minutes rose about 10 thousand. This doesn't necessarily mean the bloc caused the explosion of interest, but the surge matches a series of widespread tweets from Trump supporters and Conservatives accusing the platform of political censorship.

The story of the New York Post, which was blocked on Twitter for about a day, was shared 352,200 times on the platform. Facebook didn't stop people from linking directly to the story, but announced that it would treat them as questionable and limit their reach until third-party fact-checkers can verify them (this is a policy Facebook announced in 2019 as part of) his plan to combat misinformation in elections). The story still had 324,000 shares there, excluding those within private groups.


Steven Gregory