Twitter’s decision to even entertain the option to block tweets in an effort to conform with individual country demands is in my estimation a first step down a slippery and undesirable slope. (Note: refer to Mark Gibbs’ article in Forbes titled Twitter Commits Social Suicide)
I mean what’s next, pandering to the corporate sensibilities that would for example have resulted in the comments from the public in the McDonald’s hashtag fiasco being “filtered” out?
Think back to the Iranian elections and how instrumental Twitter was in terms of getting out to the world the truth about what was really happening in that country. After today, and if the brain trust of the company were to literally follow through on their appeasement policy, then how likely are we to get the truth, even worse . . . to even know that the truth was excluded from a fellow user’s comment stream.
Is Twitter going to put itself in the position of becoming a government’s unofficial voice piece in place of being the free and open voice of the people of not only a particular country but also the global community as a whole?
What are your thoughts?
The following is an ongoing exchange that I have had in the comments section of Mark Gibbs’ Forbes article with Jillian C. York, who is the Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
As you will note, Ms. York is somewhat unimpressed with Mr. Gibbs’ journalistic thoroughness relative to this particular story but, wading through the opening disagreement there emerges relevant perspectives that point to a number of hard questions for which answers are still needed including why is Twitter doing this now.
You say: “wouldn’t you think that what Twitter writes in its own official blog would be what they mean and not require spin clarification”
In fact, as someone who’s been closely following the press on this issue, I can say that Twitter’s post was abundantly clear to most journalists – you seem to be the only one who failed to check with Twitter or other experts on the subject, instead making wild fear-mongering claims.
Futhermore, if you had followed the link from Twitter’s original blog post (https://support.twitter.com/articles/20169222), you would have seen this:
“…if we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity…”
“we will promptly notify affected users, unless we are legally prohibited from doing so”
Your piece is, frankly, just sloppy “journalism.”
The question I have Jillian is who determines if it is valid and properly scoped?
Also, and citing the Iranian election and resulting riots . . . what happens if under a similar circumstance that government sees the sharing of information and yes even opinion as being seditious and seeks to block tweets. Is this not a valid and properly scoped situation from their perspective?
After all, law or policy is not equitable unless it is evenly applied across the board, and the issue I have is that there is a subjective element to what Twitter is presenting that is disconcerting in that some unknown person or entity can and perhaps will intercede with regard to the free flow of information.
Agree that Twitter–and other companies that operate internationally–need a better set of guidelines to follow than simply asking us to trust them to make the right decision. At this current moment, no such guidelines exist.
That said, I highly doubt Twitter–at least under its current management–will abuse their abilities. These new policies seem mostly geared toward European countries in which they have–or plan to open–offices.
While at this point I do not share your same level of confidence in terms of Twitter’s management making the right decisions Jillian – and I am not suggesting any nefarious or hidden agenda on Twitter’s part, international affairs are extremely complex as you well know and often times in the absence of clearly defined guidelines even the most experienced in the field can become an unwilling dupe to a government’s innate instincts for self-preservation or achieving its self-serving aims. Hence the reference to Chamberlain.
Even on this side of the pond there is a history that clearly supports the “constitution is not a suicide pact” mindset such as with the FLQ crisis in Canada when the War Measures Act was enacted, or going even further back to your Civil War when Lincoln suspended habeas corpus.
As Richard Posner pointed out in his 2006 book titled Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency, “the scope of constitutional rights must be adjusted in a pragmatic but rational manner.”
With Twitter’s role to this point in time being that of a neutral player, and in much the same way that justice is supposed to be blind, they are forfeiting the objective high ground of free and unencumbered access for all to assume a role and responsibility for which they are ill equipped to handle.
One of the real questions for me behind the press release and interviews is why do this now?