The whole Google gaggle -- the gurus who always align with Google lobbying positions although they are in theory independent scholars and journalists -- are praising Twitter's decision to cave to censorship demands from dictators -- which is explained carefully in its marketing press releases as the ability to censor by country -- which it hasn't used yet.
No accident, comrades.
All of the "netizen" leaders who style themselves as such "Internet freedom fighters" -- fighting against SOPA and for "net neutrality" (that is, alternately, for excessive government control over commerce, and then, for no government control over crime) are all falling into line behind Twitter's bad decision to agree to censor some tweets in some countries. Ugh!
Let's see. There's Jillian York -- she tried to claim I was the hypocrite on Twitter for saying the company should so something -- because I wouldn't line up with her anti-corporate take on surveillance equipment - although she's the hypocrite for supporting Twitter merely because they're a cool company and Cisco isn't as cool to her, I guess.
Twitter could just not do business in countries that wrongfully censor people's legitimate free speech, you know. That's still possible; indeed, it should be imperative for a company that claims it is bettering the world.
On her blog, Jillian sighs piously that "Twitter is not above the law," while acknowledging the Saudi prince and the OWS conspiracy theorists may have a bit of a point.
Then there's Zeynep Tufecki who writes posts even longer than mine, this one justifying every chapter and verse of Twitter's prostration and finally groveling: "my conclusion is that this isn’t a mediocre but acceptable policy; rather, this is an excellent policy which will be helpful to free-speech advocates."
Ugh! This is why you cannot have these people running Internet policy.
Tufecki goes into deep detail about how Twitter has to "comply with the law" as well --she is even more of an Orwellian realpoliticker than Jillian as she's had more time to work at it as a scholar:
The policy is realistic–and non-realistic policies are not better as they won’t work. The idea that Twitter can just ignore court orders everywhere is not only unrealistic, it would result in more countries to try to block Twitter completely–or make it accessible only via proxies and thus greatly restrict its power. The Internet is not a “virtual” space, and cyberspace is not a planet which can float above all jurisdictions forever. In this move, Twitter is acknowledging this fact while complying within the bare minimum framework.
I'm going to remember that bit about how the Internet is not a virtual space, next time Tufecki wants it to be to further some "progressive" political goal of hers by pretending it is, whether "net neutrality" or anti-SOPA or her other plans for that corporate-free Internet that will move to darknets. It's extraordinary that she doesn't think the medium in which she lives and moves and has her academic and intellectual being (and social being and everything being like so many of us) can "float"? Then why does it get to "float" on so many other ideas of hers?!
Then she even warbles this nonsense:
The policy provides tools for free-speech advocates. Twitter will publish list of blocked tweets, along with links to the original tweet –so everyone who is not at that particular country can see what it’s about–as well as a copy of the court order or enforceable takedown notice at http://chillingeffects.org/twitter. Free-speech advocates have a transparent and powerful tool.
So censorship is basically ok, just as long as you show the blank spots, you know, like Soviet newspapers or certain documents you get back from filing a FOIA with the US government.
But here's what's really WRONG about all this: the notion that what other countries that censor Twitter are invoking is "the law".
Law has to be just; judicial systems have to admit adversarial defense, due process, evidence and so on to be properly understood as falling under the "rule of law". Otherwise, its "rule by laws" -- the state above the law, instead of subject to its own laws.
These people don't know right from wrong -- their justifying of wrongfulness is appalling.
A court order censoring a Chinese or Egyptian dissident is not a valid concept under international human rights law (Art. 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Why call that "law"?
Currently, all Twitter has up of this nature is various DMCA takedown notices satsified from motion picture company requests.
There's another side to all this, too.
Let's say there is a valid libel case in the UK, where it is easy to bring a libel suit. Under the "country-by-country" notion, Twitter would censor the offensive speech that deliberately defamed somebody under UK law, where the judge made a finding, but let it stand and be visible in the US (if I understood the action correctly -- maybe it won't be visible, but a court order will be). Or let's say an even hard-to-bring suit in the US is successful, but Twitter lets the libel stand for the Netherlands or Iceland, forcing people who have a legitimate ruling protecting their reputations to chase Twitter from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Twitter is being awfully coy if they censor an Iranian or Egyptian in their own countries, merely to avoid having their entire platform blocked (so they can get marketing data and ad clicks still), but then let everybody else see it in the diaspora and the news-curating junkies on Twitter elsewhere. Enough of that goes on, and those countries will block the platform anyway. So why play the game?
Why are all these Googlian gurus conceding anything these oppressive countries do to suppress free speech to be "law"? They should be explaining to Twitter executives -- and each other -- that this isn't just law, and Twitter simply shouldn't be in those countries.
As for the notion that "tools for organizers" -- a sop -- is going to be some kind of rallying point or leverage to exact change, the Gaggle seems utterly unaware of what they really accomplish when they agree to such a GlavLit-type system: they validate the notion of censorship in the first place, and then they validate the idea that we can all look at it and judge among ourselves whether it's "ok" or not.
Yeah, I can just bet how *that* works. Put Sarah Kendzior and Katy Pearce on the job, and let them decide what sort of speech is acceptable and what isn't, eh? Especially in countries where calls for revolution might get less people to use the Internet and therefore create less for them to study! Or where people like me might disagree with their theses and "tarnish" them or "blacken" their employers! The horror!
The idea that we're all going to see reams of censored tweets from all over the world (if we are going to have them visible or even just court orders describing them visible) and have some people conceding that yeah, maybe that needed to be blocked -- awful, awful.
Because there will always be people who say that awful things like Koran burning or demonstrating horribly near the funerals of soldiers should be censored, and the law on this and the jurisprudence on this to protect all our free speech won't matter, only what will matter is what the mob says in the "crowd-sourcing".
Just because Twitter provides instructions on how to override your default IP setting identifying your country of origin, by using proxies, doesn't mean that they aren't caving. Of course they're caving, because they are going to block tweets. They shouldn't do that. They should do nothing, and if countries feel the need to block them, they should shrug.
Twitter spokespeople have repeatedly said they will only block content in “In the face of a valid and applicable legal order.” This is a good standard and I don’t think any company can get around this in jurisdictions where they have physical presence; nor is it clear that they should. Of course, we all need to be watching carefully to ensure that they do so and not just cooperate with governments based on “requests.”
I bet she won't use that logic that about the national security letters -- and then open court orders -- that went to demand the information from @ioerror Jacob Appelbaum's accounts, eh? Since she's now in the business of defending "valid and applicable legal orders". In fact, it is a valid and applicable legal order demanding Appelbaum's and other WikiLeaks suspects' accounts. The ACLU defense of freedom of speech did not hold up in a court of law because there was an overriding argument made by the investigation that there was probably cause of their material relation to a criminal act.
The gushing that Tufecki, York, Howard and others are doing on this is sick-making. Why are they doing this? Why is Twitter so different for them? (Like Google is so different for them.)
Because it has never been about principle for these people. It has never really been about human rights. It has always been about power for their tribe. Twitter=good, Google=good, Cisco=bad, surveillance company=bad. Twitter devs they can "work with" -- they know them. They will swing them if they need to. It's that kind of attitude.
It's really awful to see from these people that they don't understand right from wrong, and don't understand what law really is. They're willing to suddenly concede "reality" from tyrants that they wouldn't concede from the United States of America on SOPA.
And Alex Howard stays close to the tribal stampede on this -- if not leading it -- saying there's "no need to hit the panic button" -- although he could sure hit the panic button on the putative --imaginary -- censorship of SOPA. He doesn't bother with the "legal" analysis, he skips right to the sheer, raw business end of the business:
The crux of the matter, to me, is that Twitter is a venture-backed private company with investors that want to see growth and profit. It’s not a public utility. Jack has said that he envisions every connected device being able to tweet. That’s not going to come to pass unless they expand into the world’s biggest markets, China and India. To do so, Twitter will have to make similar decisions as Google did when it entered China and censored its results. Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt decided eventually to change how it handled search, redirecting to Hong Kong. This is only a first pass at understanding what’s happened here and why, so other explanations are welcome in the comments, if grounded in fact.
Of course, he's on a first-name basis with "Jack" -- and he's making the same arguments that enabled technologists to go into China and then companies like Yahoo help send dissidents to jail. Google got out of China only because their very servers were attacked by the Chinese government (yes, government).
Why does Twitter get to repeat Google's and Yahoo's mistakes? Just because "every device must tweet"? Gosh, do any of us have a say in that? Maybe we don't want every single friggin' device to "tweet". Go away. I thought I could catch spimes and drown them in Coke cans or crush them under the heel of my boot -- when I used to write about spimes, Joi Ito used to censor me on Technorati because he was all agog working on a project with spimes them. But now the spimes are all right in your phone...)
And are we not surprised that Mike Myasnick, who wailed and screamed that legitimate anti-piracy crime-fighting actions against copyright infringement were "censorship" is now wilting and boot-licking when it comes to real censorship from Twitter? Here's his horrendous Orwellian apologia:
I know some people saw this and got upset about "censorship!" but looking at the details, it actually looks like Twitter is doing a smart thing here. You could argue that the proper response would be to stand up to local governments and say, "sorry, we don't block anything" -- and I'd actually have sympathy with that response. But the truth is that if a government is demanding censorship, then Twitter is likely going to have to comply or face complete blocking. The solution that it came up with is somewhat more elegant: it will just block the specific content in the specific location and (importantly) will try to let users know that the content is blocked while also sending as much info as it can to the Chilling Effects website so that people can learn about what's being censored. This is a lot more transparent and hopefully actually shines more light on efforts to censor Twitter.
Now why is this copyleftist so happy about this awful thing? Because selfishly, he doesn't think about Russia or China or Iran, he thinks about the US, where the blocked tweets will be DMCA takedowns -- legitimate actions of law against copyright infringement -- which he thinks will somehow "raise consciousness" when people see how many of them there are, and how hard it is to keep up with them, DMCA by DMCA notice. Ugh.
Basically, while I find none of this surprising coming from this whole gang, it is very sickening. It is such a vivid and stark manifestation of their utter hypocrisy and their utter unsuitability for fighting for any Internet freedom. It shows how craven and supine their "academics" and "thought leadership" are to these giant companies running social media, and how much hard work we all will have to do to get free not only of the big companies, but of the bulwark of the Wired State around them.