Double standards, subpar Substack | Washington Examiner | #computerhacking | #hacking

If Twitter didn’t have double standards, as the saying goes, it’d have no standards at all.

ProPublica shared a report last week divulging the personal financial information of the 400 highest earners in the United States. The report focused exclusively on confidential IRS data and how much the wealthiest pay in taxes.

Perhaps as interesting as the fact that ProPublica continues to be the beneficiary of felonious behavior — leaking personal IRS data is a serious crime, after all — is that group was free to share its reporting on Twitter, free of warning labels.

This is noteworthy because it wasn’t too long ago that Twitter took a hard line on the sharing of illegally and/or unethically obtained personal information.

You may recall Twitter took extraordinary steps in 2020 to censor the New York Post’s exclusive coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop story, including suspending and blocking users from even sharing the article in private messages. Twitter argued at the time that it doesn’t allow the sharing of “hacked materials.” The New York Post scoop did indeed include images of Ukrainian businessman Vadym Pozharskyi’s Gmail address as well as Biden’s Rosemont Seneca business email address.

“The policy prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization,” Twitter corporate explained in 2020. “We don’t want to incentivize hacking by allowing Twitter to be used as distribution for possibly illegally obtained materials.”

Though the statement included a careful carve-out, claiming its guidelines only cover “links to or images of hacked material themselves,” the group’s full “distribution of hacked materials” policy would seem to include the sort of stuff ProPublica publishes on the regular.

“The use of hacks and hacking to exfiltrate information from private computer systems can be used to manipulate the public conversation, and makes all of us less secure online,” Twitter claimed.

It added, “We do not condone attempts to compromise or infiltrate computer systems. As such, we don’t permit the use of our services to directly distribute content obtained through hacking by the people or groups associated with a hack. In addition, we may label Tweets containing or linking to hacked materials to help people understand the authenticity or source of these materials and provide additional context.”

Violations of Twitter’s “hacked materials” policy include “disclosing materials accessed legitimately outside of approved systems or networks.”

Twitter also has claimed it does not “allow the people or groups directly associated with a hack to use Twitter to distribute hacked materials,” including “the representatives (official or self-identified) of or proxies acting in direct coordination with the hackers or hacking groups.”

Despite all these relatively straightforward directives, there are no Twitter warning labels on ProPublica’s tweets promoting its coverage of illegally obtained personal IRS data.

I guess some personal information is more worthy of protection than others.

Subpar Substack 

If there’s one thing the corporate press hate, it’s competition.

This explains the New York Times’s crusade to take down Substack.

The paper published a slipshod hit piece on the newsletter giant last week that failed to perform even the most basic functions of normal investigative reporting. (Full disclosure: I maintain a Substack account, where I very infrequently publish articles for free.)

In its attempted takedown, the New York Times quoted a former Substack writer, Kirsten Han, who claimed, without evidence, that the newsletter platform disproportionately favors “white men.” Does it? Who knows! The New York Times made no effort to verify the allegation. It did not so much as add an aside, claiming it couldn’t prove or disprove Han’s claim. It merely regurgitated her criticism, unchallenged.

Han, who, by the way, has since moved to the platform Ghost, also claimed Substack suffers from a lack of content moderation. New York Times readers will no doubt be surprised to learn Ghost has no content moderation whatsoever. New York Times readers will be surprised precisely because the New York Times article makes no mention of Ghost’s zero-moderation model. Seems like a relevant detail!

Han’s “white men” complaints, and the New York Times’s willingness to go along, are all the more ridiculous considering the same news report mentions former Substack author and transgender activist Grace Lavery, who barely wrote anything at all despite being paid a lavish $125,000 advance in 2021.

Lavery left the platform in a little less than a year, claiming, “Free speech is too important to leave to this sleazy group of millionaires.”

The New York Times makes no mention of Lavery’s paltry output or the six-figure advance.

The paper is careful to note, however, that Lavery has a bone to pick with Substack’s “moderation policy” and the supposed “pressure” its writers are under “to constantly deliver.”

It all amounts to sloppy reporting in favor of an apparent newsroom consensus: Substack is bad. This is all you need to know. Stop asking questions.

Here are all these criticisms regarding Substack, direct from former disgruntled Substack writers! 

Did you double-check any of these criticisms? Doesn’t Lavery’s advance at least contradict some of what Han says about the platform disproportionately favoring “white men?” And how does Lavery reconcile the “pressure” to produce with the fact Lavery barely wrote anything at all for Substack? Also, how do we square Han’s content moderation grievances with the fact that she moved to a platform with no content moderation at all?

Stop asking questions! Substack is bad! 

Wait a minute. Han complains Substack disproportionately favors “white men.” Either Lavery’s advance throws a wrench in this argument or someone forgot Lavery, who is white, identifies now as a woman.

Oh, no. Did the New York Times or Han just do a transphobia?

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