Hunter Biden phone hack claims test platforms misinformation policies

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Once again, search and social media platforms face moderation challenges related to data allegedly leaked from the President’s son’s devices.

Over the weekend, users of 4Chan’s /pol/ messageboard were incensed by a poster claiming to have hacked into Hunter Biden’s phone. Exact details are hard to confirm, but the original poster suggests they used a tool called iPhone Backup Extractor to restore backup copies of the contents of Hunter Biden’s iPhone and iPad – possibly by compromising his iCloud account and downloading the data from Cloud.

The 4Chan poster shared further instructions on how to decrypt the backup files and other users started sharing images, videos and messages claiming to be from the phone. No news outlet has confirmed the content is genuine, however motherboard reports that at least some of the images shared on 4Chan have not previously appeared anywhere else online. Meanwhile, the Secret Service said Monday night it was aware of the alleged hack but was “unable to publicly comment on possible investigative actions.”

Some videos appear to show Hunter Biden smoking crack cocaine or having sexual encounters with women believed to be escorts. It’s great fodder for conservative pundits, but there’s no real argument that releasing these clips is in the public interest – especially since so much similar material surfaced when the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive were shared with the New York Post in 2020. (Many details about his hard-partying lifestyle were released by Hunter Biden himself in his 2021 memoir. Beautiful things.)

There have been legitimate corruption concerns regarding Hunter Biden’s business ties to China and Ukraine, but no evidence of wrongdoing has been presented so far – and nothing from the recent leak provides any insight into those concerns. As a result, the story has been difficult for mainstream news outlets, with most agencies holding back with early coverage of the leak.

Twitter and Facebook have not made any public statements restricting links to the 4Chan posts and/or other references to the iCloud hack, although it’s unclear what decisions may have been made behind the scenes. Twitter has a policy that prohibits the sharing of materials obtained through hacking, and while the hashtag #HunterBiden was listed as trending earlier in the week, it no longer appeared to be a visible trending topic Tuesday afternoon. Twitter had not responded to moderation questions sent via The edge at the time of publication.

Google took more identifiable action, showing users a notification box for specific search terms related to the allegedly hacked material. In response to queries such as “Hunter Biden Crack,” users were presented with a message telling them the results were changing rapidly, with a prompt to come back later for more reliable information. The results were then displayed below the message box.

Search terms related to the leaked data returned a notification from Google about rapidly changing results.

This was announced by Google spokesman Ned Adriance The edge that the notices were first introduced in June 2021 as part of the company’s attempt to promote information literacy by providing additional context to search results.

“These alerts appear automatically when our systems detect that an issue is evolving rapidly, such as B. in breaking news, and a number of sources are yet to comment,” said Adriance. “There is no manual triggering… Our automated search systems do not understand the political ideology of content and they are not a ranking factor for search results.”

Still, some conservative sources Google accused Google of censoring search results, although search hits appeared directly below the hint. Especially in connection with Hunter Biden, it is a sensitive topic because of the aggressive moderation New York Post‘s original story about the laptop. When the story was first published in 2020 – just a month before the presidential election – both Facebook and Twitter restricted the sharing of the URL on the platforms, citing the need to limit the spread of potentially false information.

Google’s strategy seems designed to prevent the exploitation of “data gaps”: searches that produce inferior information before well-researched material was published to fill the gap. Emily Dreyfuss, a senior fellow on the Technology and Social Change team at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy, says Google makes the right decision in this case by providing context without compromising the visibility of the results To block.

“As the most powerful broker of online information in the United States, Google has a responsibility to prioritize quality information,” said Dreyfuss. “This is where Google is informing the searcher that what they’re looking for is in some way controversial – it’s breaking news or history is in flux – and therefore the results aren’t necessarily reliable, but more importantly, those results won’t be.” censored.”

The Google notification was similar to labels put in place by Twitter to deal with election misinformation in 2020, Dreyfuss said.

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