on second thought
October 16, 2020

Twitter after drawing criticism by blocking a story from the New York Post about former Vice President Joe Biden's son is making some key policy changes.

The company this week prevented users from tweeting an article with unconfirmed allegations about Biden and his son Hunter, which the outlet claimed was based on alleged emails purportedly obtained from a laptop dropped off at a repair shop and that ended up in the hands of President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani. Twitter said the article violated its hacked materials policy, which "prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization."

The step was controversial especially among Republicans including President Trump, and days later, Twitter's Vijaya Gadde has announced "we have decided to make changes" to this policy on hacked materials after "reflecting on" the "significant feedback." Now, Gadde said, Twitter will "no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them," and the company will also label tweets with these links to "provide context" rather than blocking them.

"We want to address the concerns that there could be many unintended consequences to journalists, whistleblowers and others in ways that are contrary to Twitter's purpose of serving the public conversation," Gadde said.

This was a "stunning policy reversal" from Twitter, The Washington Post wrote, although according to the Post, the Hunter Biden story in question will remain blocked by Twitter based on a different policy preventing private information from being shared.

Facebook had also taken action against the Hunter Biden story, saying it would reduce its distribution before it could be reviewed by fact-checkers. But Twitter's block drew far more criticism, and Senate Republicans subsequently announced they planned to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Dorsey earlier this week admitted the company's communication around the New York Post block was "not great." Brendan Morrow

October 1, 2020

In a reversal, former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign is set to begin in-person canvassing.

The Biden campaign will "dispatch several hundred newly trained volunteers to engage voters across Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania" this weekend and is expected to expand the effort into other battleground states, The Associated Press reports. The Biden campaign confirmed it's "expanding on our strategy in a targeted way that puts the safety of communities first and foremost and helps us mobilize voters who are harder to reach by phone now that we're in the final stretch."

The campaign previously held off on in-person canvassing efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and Politico's Alex Thompson observed this was a "huge reversal." Biden's team had criticized President Trump's campaign for its in-person canvassing efforts, and a Democratic National Committee spokesperson in August slammed them for "risking the lives of their staff, the lives of voters, and risking becoming a super spreader organization during the middle of a pandemic."

Biden officials on numerous occasions had also downplayed the importance of in-person canvassing, with Biden national states director Jenn Ridder telling Politico in August, "Our response rates on phone calls and texts are much higher and people are not necessarily wanting someone to go up to their door right now."

Thompson notes that some of the safety measures announced by the Biden campaign "go beyond" what the Trump campaign has implemented. According to AP, in addition to providing volunteers with personal protective equipment, the Biden campaign will also check their temperatures and have them complete a symptom questionnaire, and the campaign will additionally text voters telling them to expect a knock on their door.

AP writes the reversal comes "amid growing concern" from Democrats who fear that by not conducting in-person canvassing when his opponent was, Biden has been allowing Trump to have a "significant advantage." Brendan Morrow

September 16, 2020

Big Ten's fall football season will go forward after all.

In a reversal, the Big Ten Conference announced on Wednesday that it plans to begin playing football again next month after previously postponing the season in August, The Washington Post reports. The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to resume the season beginning on the weekend of Oct. 23-24, an announcement said.

"We are incredibly grateful for the collaborative work that our Return to Competition Task Force have accomplished to ensure the health, safety and wellness of student-athletes, coaches and administrators," Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said.

Big Ten announced "significant medical protocols" it will be implementing, which will include daily COVID-19 antigen testing. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus will "undergo comprehensive cardiac testing" and be required to receive clearance from a cardiologist, and they'll return to competition no sooner than 21 days after testing positive. Big Ten also said it will establish a "cardiac registry" to help "examine the effects on COVID-19 positive student-athletes."

This decision comes after Big Ten announced last month it would be postponing its 2020-21 fall season, with Warren at the time saying it had become "abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall."

Since then, Big Ten had faced pressure to go forward in the fall, including from President Trump, The New York Times notes. During an ABC town hall on Tuesday night, Trump said he was "pushing hard" for Big Ten to "open back up for the football games," adding, "let them play sports." In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump wrote, "It is my great honor to have helped!!!"

But the decision, the Times writes, is "likely to provoke new outrage from those who will believe the league is prioritizing profits, entertainment and a measure of public relations peace over health and safety." Brendan Morrow

July 14, 2020

The U.K. has pulled a reversal on Huawei.

Britain announced it will now ban equipment from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, from its 5G wireless network, The New York Times reports.

This decision came after earlier this year, Britain announced it would allow Huawei on its 5G network, though the company's equipment would be limited to "less-critical parts." That January announcement had come despite pressure from the Trump administration, and since the U.S. has "repeatedly warned the U.K. that Huawei is a national security risk, claiming that China could use its equipment for espionage," it was "a sign the U.S. campaign against Huawei is faltering," Axios wrote at the time.

But in what Axios now describes as a "big win for the Trump administration," the U.K. on Tuesday said it would ban the company's equipment from the network after all, requiring equipment that has been installed already to be removed by 2027, the Times reports.

"As facts have changed, so has our approach," Oliver Dowden, government telecommunications minister, said. "This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the U.K.'s telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run."

The "about-face" from Britain, the Times wrote, "signals a new willingness among Western countries to confront China." According to the Times, this move is expected to "delay the rollout of 5G in Britain by around two years." Brendan Morrow

January 21, 2020

The Senate's impeachment trial of President Trump is underway, but it's already received a last-minute rule change.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday unveiled the proposed impeachment trial rules, under which each side would have 24 hours over two days for opening arguments. This proposal quickly drew criticism from Democrats, as it could see sessions stretching past midnight, beyond the point where most people would be able to watch.

But this rule was modified Tuesday with a proposal under which opening arguments for each side would still last 24 hours, but over three days rather than two, NBC News reports. This would allow Senate sessions to wrap up around 9 p.m. ET, and could extend the length of the trial by two days, Politico notes. CNN's Kevin Liptak reports this change apparently came together quite quickly, as the resolution received a handwritten update.

Although Democrats were critical of the rules, CNN reports the changes were actually "the result of concerns from moderate Republicans." A spokesperson for Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) confirmed to NBC News that she was among these Republicans who complained, saying, "She thinks these changes are a significant improvement." Another rule change allows for evidence to be submitted automatically unless there are objections.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins further reports that the White House pushed for the two-day timetable, as "officials were concerned they may not get to make their full arguments this week with the 3-day period." These White House officials, Collins reports, "think it's better if all their arguments are made consecutively, instead of possibly being broken up and stretching into next week." Besides, as CBS News' Kathryn Watson noted, "Most senators want to sit silently for 12 hours without moving/eating/looking at their phones as much as anyone else." Brendan Morrow

July 16, 2019

Netflix is excising a graphic scene from its teen drama 13 Reasons Why after more than two years of criticism.

The Netflix original series based on a young adult novel about a high-school student who takes her own life originally contained a disturbing and explicit depiction of suicide in its finale that sparked debate when it aired in March 2017. The show's creators defended the scene as their way of showing the horror of suicide, while experts raised concerns over how the scene might affect vulnerable young viewers. A study in April found that suicides among those between age 10 and 17 spiked the month after 13 Reasons Why premiered on Netflix, although this increase could not be definitively tied to the series' release, NPR reports.

Now, two years later, the controversial suicide scene has been edited out of the show. In the version currently streaming on Netflix, only the moments immediately before and after Hannah's suicide are shown, but the series no longer depicts the character cutting her wrists as in the original version.

Netflix in a statement on Tuesday said that "we've been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show" and decided to edit the scene "on the advice of medical experts." Creator Brian Yorkey said, as he has in past interviews, that the intent of the scene was to "tell the truth about the horror of such an act" so that "no one would ever wish to emulate it" but that the creators have "heard concerns" ahead of the third season's launch. He concludes that this new version will "do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers." Brendan Morrow

April 22, 2019

Samsung has delayed its new foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, just days before it was scheduled to launch.

The company on Monday confirmed a report from The Wall Street Journal that it's delaying the release of the Galaxy Fold, which functions both as a 4.6-inch smartphone and a 7.3-inch tablet and was scheduled to be released on April 26, per CNBC.

This comes after a number of journalists from outlets like Bloomberg and CNBC reported that their review copies broke after just days of use. Some said they inadvertently peeled off a part of the screen that looked like a screen protector, while others said the screen simply stopped working. Samsung on Monday explained that these reviewers "showed us how the device needs further improvements," promising to "take measures to strengthen the display protection."

Some of these early issues "could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge," Samsung said, adding that there "was an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance," per CNN.

No new launch date was provided for the device, which costs almost $2,000, but Samsung said it will announce a new one "in the coming weeks." Brendan Morrow

April 2, 2019

Don't count former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg out of the 2020 race just yet — not even after he counted himself out.

Bloomberg might reconsider his decision not to run for president in 2020, Axios reports, noting he would be most likely to enter if former Vice President Joe Biden decides not to run. He could also launch a 2020 bid if Biden does enter the race but his campaign doesn't last long. As had been previously reported, Biden had been a major factor in Bloomberg's 2020 decision, as he was reportedly worried about whether there would be a centrist spot for him in the race. Still, the Axios report notes it's possible Bloomberg could reconsider but ultimately just decide not to run a second time.

Bloomberg announced in early March he wouldn't run for president, doing so in an op-ed in which he also spends several paragraphs explaining why he thinks he would make a great president. "I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election," he writes. "But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field." He goes on to say that the best way for him to help the party wouldn't be with a presidential campaign — at least, "for now."

This op-ed leaves him some wiggle room if he wants to change his mind should the state of the race dramatically change. And it certainly would if Biden, the frontrunner, decided not to run after two women came forward to say he made them feel uncomfortable with unwanted touching. CNN reported on Monday after the second woman came forward that this "won't dissuade [Biden] from running in 2020," although a decision still hasn't been finalized. Last we heard, Biden was expected to announce by Easter. Brendan Morrow

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