The conservative website College Fix has a report from a Cornell student that came to my attention today in light of Project Veritas’ lawsuit against Twitter for violating a poorly defined “privacy rule”. Joseph Silverstein says he was suspended after showing a widespread picture of Hunter Biden in his underwear – one of the pictures taken by his laptop. Twitter insists that the image is in violation of privacy regulations, despite being from an allegedly abandoned laptop that is open to public discussion and concerns a public debate. It’s also another example of Twitter’s strikingly contradicting censorship policy, allowing pictures of Rudy Giuliani allegedly touching himself, but a media confrontation in front of a house with a Facebook manager or a picture connected to the Biden laptop Not.
Silverstein relates how he posted a tweet above the picture that said, “Imagine this was Don Jr. instead of Hunter Biden?” The image is widely used in publications and on various websites.
However, Twitter deleted the tweet, suspended the student, informing him that he had been banned for “violating our rules of sharing privately produced / distributed intimate media by someone without their express consent”.
Ironically, Biden refused to acknowledge that these photos or the other files and emails were authentic. The media have steadfastly refused to urge him to confirm the authenticity of the content.
In particular, a recent study that allegedly reveals Twitter’s neutral censorship rules admitted that the company does not disclose actual data and that information is in fact “inconclusive” due to the company’s rejection.
The concern is that Twitter is taking calls from Democratic members to increase censorship on the platform to heart. CEO Jack Dorsey previously apologized for censoring Hunter Biden’s story prior to the election. However, Senator Chris Coons did not address the dangers of such censoring of news, but urged Dorsey to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing what he sees as “climate denial.” Likewise, Senator Richard Blumenthal seemed to be taking the opposite meaning from Twitter, admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said he was “concerned that your two companies are actually falling behind or pulling back, that you are not taking action against dangerous disinformation”. Accordingly, he asked for an answer to this question:
“Will you commit to the same kind of solid game books for changing content, including fact checking, flagging, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps in the upcoming election, even for politicians in the upcoming runoff?”
“Robust content change” seems to be the new Orwellian rallying cry in our society.
The interesting thing about Twitter’s decision about this student is that this type of image would be the basis for a public disclosure claim of embarrassing private facts. However, this unauthorized act has an exception for the topicality:
Section 652D Advertising for Private Life
Anyone who makes a matter public that affects the private life of another is liable to the other for the violation of his or her privacy if the matter published is of a kind
(a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and
(b) is not a legitimate concern of the public.
The student used a much-discussed image of the President’s son – one of many images that critics claim not only depict his time of drug abuse (while being paid by foreign companies), but also images intended to be used to influence or Influencing could have been used to blackmail the family before it was posted on the laptop. It is part of a national news story, despite the active efforts of many media outlets to avoid the story. It would satisfy the remarkable exception in every way, as would the picture of Giuliani.
There is no question that this is an embarrassing photo, as are the other photos of drug use and sexual tryst. The question for Twitter is what standard it applies to public figures and officials in such stories.
It is particularly worrying to see that Twitter (which is responsible for censoring the pre-election story) continues to block the discussion and refuses to address the blatant contradiction with any other images allowed on its platform. Indeed, the point of the tweet is that the lack of media attention stands in striking contrast to the atmosphere in which conservative figures like Donald Trump Jr. “anything goes.”