WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg says New York Post‘s The 2020 story about Hunter Biden forced parent company Automattic to weigh tough auditing questions for WordPress VIP hosting – but the company concluded that it shouldn’t take any action on the story.
in October 2020, to mail published a report based on material he said came from an abandoned Biden laptop. Facebook and Twitter temporarily restricted links to the story as questions about the origin of the laptop’s content swirled: Facebook limited its spread under potential misinformation rules, while Twitter banned links to the story more extreme, citing rules against posting hacked material. (It had previously enforced these rules against leaked police department data.) But at the time, there was little discussion about one key platform: the New York Post’s content management system, WordPress VIP.
“Twitter has decided to remove links to the story. New York Post. Guess who’s hosting New York Post? We do,” said Mullenweg Verges Nilay Patel decoder. this to mail is one of the most recognized users of WordPress VIP, a web hosting platform for major brand websites and media outlets. WordPress VIP is based on open source WordPress software, but is a commercial service run by Automattic and customers (like the more general purpose WordPress.com) are subject to Automattic’s terms of service.
While Twitter and Facebook were arguing over whether to let the story go viral, Automattic was having their own internal debate. to mail WordPress had violated the VIP rules. “It may exceed some of the rules we have against hacked material without consent, but it also fits these other rules, including an important layered journalism organization and public interest,” Mullenweg said. We decided not to touch it,” he said.
“I think the art and science of interpreting policies is really here.”
Mullenweg says it’s not surprising that the issue came up. “There is always a discussion and there are reports. People contact us saying ‘Remove this’ or ‘This violates your policy’.” But he calls his policies a “starting point” for real moderation. “I think the art and science of interpreting policies is really out there. We’re going to make mistakes too. We either accidentally removed blogs by a script that went wrong, or by someone who clicked the wrong button or made a mistake in interpreting our policies. It’s all about how you fix it,” he says. Twitter, for its part, made He concludes (regardless of whether or not Biden’s laptop counts as “hacked”) that his rules regarding hacked material are wrong.
Mullenweg is skeptical of allegations—often made by Republican politicians and pundits—that political speech is routinely suppressed. “Maybe we should all say that it really works right now, or maybe we should question the framework in the first place – there’s something fundamentally broken or wrong here,” he says. “The current system will make mistakes. It’s not perfect, but it gets better pretty quickly, usually within hours or days, not weeks or months.”
Still, it’s an interesting reminder of just how wide the limits of content moderation are. Automattic spent last year publicly rethinking the rules of Tumblr, which it acquired in 2019. It’s less intuitive to imagine that similar rules apply to a news source that predates the internet or a web platform away from a traditional social network. But online everything content — so it’s no surprise that WordPress VIP grapples with the same questions Facebook and Twitter are facing.