Misguided Twitter Protests… And Why Twitter Could Have Explained Itself Better

from the think-this-through dept

Last week, Twitter announced that it now had the ability to block tweets geographically, if necessary. As we noted at the time, this appeared to be a way to limit the impact of censorship to certain countries. That is, rather than completely taking down content (as it would do before), instead it would limit the blocks to just the geographic region. On top of that, it would be quite transparent about this — posting all info to ChillingEffects, and trying to let users know if they were visiting the page of a censored tweet.

Unfortunately, many people interpreted this as Twitter giving in to censors and allowing censorship. But that’s a misreading of the situation. Again: Twitter already takes down content when required by law. Now it’s trying to limit such takedowns. However, because people interpreted this to mean it was getting into the censorship business, there were protests against Twitter, which I think missed the point entirely.

The folks over at EFF have a good explainer post that details why this policy actually means less censorship, not more.

That said, Twitter still deserves some of the blame for the way in which it presented this. While it mentioned it in passing, it should have focused much more heavily on the fact that this was an attempt to limit the ability of countries to more widely censor info. Of course, there are some who believe Twitter should simply stand up against any and all attempts to take down content — but the fact is that there are legal situations in which content is ordered to be taken down via a court order. In this case, Twitter is providing a lot more info and transparency than it was before. That’s a good thing… but it’s really not how they positioned their own story.

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Comments on “Misguided Twitter Protests… And Why Twitter Could Have Explained Itself Better”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jan 30th, 2012 @ 2:51am

Perhaps, what you fail to consider, is that pissing off ALL repressive regimes means that you lose all your income streams: this way, people can see who is censoring what.

Remember that all laws censor behaviours, at their most fundamental. The irony is that you cannot he censored, as you’re nothing more than a coward, like me.

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ll bite.

OK: Twitter obeying a request from a legal authority to take down content in accordance with the *current* laws under which they operate. Especially when they attempt to limit the impact to specific geographical areas subject to the relevant laws and report the takedown requests via Chilling Effects.

Not OK: Governments seeking to further expand their existing legal authority in ways that allow to assume defendants are guilty until proven innocent and remove content without any form of due process, adversarial hearings or legal redress in the event of inevitably mistaken allegations. Especially when they do so on behalf of private business interests rather than the citizens they are *supposed* to be representing.

See the difference? (Probably not, but I live in hope)

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“You’re a gigantic, transparent hypocrite.”

Your not supposed to cut and paste the next time from the trolling talking points to the troll post.

Now I’ll be curious all day what the preprovided response to someone calling you a gigantic, transparent hypocrite was going to be.

0/10 – Fails at the use of cut and paste.

Planespotter (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m not… Google deindexing .co.cc websites must have been a business based decision and as I said as a private entity they are well within their rights to do it.

You really need to start to understand the difference between buisnesses “censoring” content based on business based decisions and Governments doing co because they can.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Oh, I do understand the difference. Censoring without a court order to do so is worse, no?

And, um, you said “none of them do (unless ordered by a Court) as removing content/links would affect them as businesses” and I then gave you an example of Google doing exactly the thing you said they don’t do.

Now you’re defending the very action that you said Google would never do by calling it a “business based decision.”

So when a business unilaterally decides that a website is useless, that’s OK. But when a court of law decides the same thing, it’s not OK. Got it.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Google was upfront about the reasons for co.cc.
Governments are rarely upfront about their underhanded movements.

Google is not elected, Governments are.

It is fun watching you stretch to try to shift blame things on Google, is this going to replace chubby as the new AC pattern here? Trying to paint Google as something more evil than the Government?

Google is just a search engine, if you want to find the co.cc domains you still can. When a government attempts to censor something they attempt to make it cease to exist.

1/10 – You called Google out as being evil… rest of the net says well DUR.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Really, you’re going to score my post like a child. Boring, dude. And drop the nonsense about trying to understand my post as some sort of “new AC pattern.” You really sound stupid. Just address what I’m actually saying like a big boy.

So it’s OK for Google because they were upfront? I don’t recall them saying anything about it ’til afterward. Can you point to where they explained the action before they took it? And can you also explain how Google knew that each and every website they delisted was useless? It doesn’t seem possible that they could have inspected each and every one. That being the case, then they deindexed sites without even making a determination that that particular site was bad. And you don’t see any problem with this?

That’s way worse than a court of law determining that a specific site is dedicated to infringement. SOPA and PROTECT IP provide for court action–doesn’t get much more open than that. And why is it OK for Google to decide on its own to deindex a site, but it’s not OK for a court to order Google to deindex a site? Please explain to me that.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Or allowing the AG to just decide it is infringing based on 1 sided information from a media corporation.
They did so well with Dajaz1 and the subdomains they took out at collateral damage branding those who ran them as pedophiles.

“Sometimes that means tweaking its algorithm to prevent SEO-gaming; other times it means dropping over 11 million sites from search results, as the company just did in blocking the .co.cc subdomain. Google classifies it as a “freehost” — it belongs to a Korean company that provides free or cheap domains, often bulk-registered — and after automated scanning revealed a high percentage of malware-hosting sites, decided to scrub the entire lot from its results. Of course, this is something like using a nuclear weapon against cockroaches: it causes a lot of collateral damage, while your real target scurries to its next hideout. “

Again delisting something from a search engine and censoring something off the net are 3 different things. Comparing apples to oranges isn’t going to work no matter how hard you yell and stomp your foot.

It is nice to see each refinement of your argument at each stage to try and keep the idea alive but its not actually working.

Oh and I grade the posts so that the trolls might learn to up their game and make it at least a challenge to debate them. Shooting fish in a barrel gets boring. If you dislike it then by all means stop trying to debate me.

2/10 – You get points for spelling. 🙂

Jamie (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

“The AC brought up.
Google is not elected, Governments are.

Your response to this?”

If you don’t like what Google have done, you can quickly and easily start using another search engine. There’s nothing to stop you.

If you don’t like a censorship order from a foreign government, there’s absolutely nothing you can do. A search engine has little choice but to comply, otherwise they may be blocked completely, may face hefty fines, or their directors may face other legal complications (especially if they try to enter the country that made the order).

If you don’t like a censorship order from your own government, you can write to your representative and complain. You also get the chance to try and vote the ruling party out in the next election. All you have to do is hope that the next government isn’t just more of the same as the current one.

Anonymous Coward says:

I just saw something.

To it a soup first you need to prepared it.

It was about rabbits really is an old saying, meaning you can’t just bypass necessary steps if you want something.

People woke up to the danger of exclusionary laws that can be used for censorship, Twitter right now is feeling the heat of it, it doesn’t matter why they are doing it, at the end of the day, they are doing it and people are not so willing to accept that, which could lead to internet companies to take a harder instance on those issues and don’t fold so easily in the future for whatever reason that may be.

The public has its eyes on the ball not what the others are doing at the sides.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There was actually no misunderstanding over SOPA despite what you would like everyone to believe.
But its good to see that your Cheerios are still thoroughly pissed in over it this far after the fact.

I don’t see why your so sad about the defeat of SOPA, had they managed to pass it you would have been out of a job trolling websites presenting your version of “truth”.

0/10 – have the coffee before trying to troll, you might come up with something better if your heart is actually beating.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I know it can be hard keeping up with my use of long words like If, and, the…

SOPA was a crappy law paid for by special interests, the fact you claim neither side understood it helps solidify the idea it should have been defeated…

0/10 – Thanks for playing, heres your years supply of Ramen Noodles… Brick Meal for all of your nutritional needs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And the SOPA opposition was paid for by special interests. That’s how the game is played.

And I’m happy to have a chat with you, but if you’re going to childishly score each post of mine, I’ll find someone else to chat with. You really, really look like an idiot doing this. I’m sure you think it’s clever. It’s just stupid. Sorry.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

And the SOPA opposition was paid for by special interests.

You are really not getting it are you? The public outcry over SOPA was not Google Zombies doing what they were told. Google didn’t control it at all. If Google does something that go against the ethos of the internet they would face the same sort of outcry. They are not immune.

That’s how the game is played.

Perhaps that is an insight as to why you are not getting it. The internet populace doesn’t play by the old rules anymore and they are certainly not playing any sort of game, it’s for keeps.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Obviously they still retain the right to universally block content (such as child porn) that is universally condemned. I have to agree with Mike and the EFF on this one. More important than maintaining a revenue stream in oppressive countries it allows them to maintain a presence where the rest of the world can specifically track the censorship attempts by those regimes leaving in place the evidence for the rest of the world to see and use to decry these abuses of power. This in fact IS standing up to the oppression by exposing them for what they are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Of course they can block whatever they want, they’re a private company. My point was that the people who have a huge problem with blocking when it’s IP-related typically don’t have a problem with it when it’s viruses or child porn. That shows it’s not the blocking that’s the problem for opponents–it’s simply a judgment call from them about what information is OK to block.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The real issue comes down to who decides to that there needs to be a block. A simple analogy here:

When you go to a restaurant or bar there is often a sign that says “The management reserves the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.”

Twitter’s service, Twitter’s right. However on the other hand, if a third party company or other government entity wants to FORCE Twitter to block content against their will, there’s a problem.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“My point was that the people who have a huge problem with blocking when it’s IP-related typically don’t have a problem with it when it’s viruses or child porn.”

Wow! You’ve finally figured out that most people consider child porn and computer viruses a far more serious problem than IP infringement. Well done catching up with the rest of us.

Cynyr (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Twitter should not block anything… There was no misguided protests, we don’t want Twitter censorship at anytime or anyplace.

Welcome to a world without twitter then. IT will be listed as a terrorist organization and then dealt with from outer space.

Anyways, what makes yo think that the web won’t route around the damage? say by going to tumblr, or G+ or facebook, or some yet to be setup service.

btrussell (profile) says:

“– but the fact is that there are legal situations in which content is ordered to be taken down via a court order.”

Re-posting to chilling effects isn’t complying with the order. Re-posting isn’t taking down.
If they aren’t re-posting, then info related to it is probably useless.

Blocking blocks of IP address’ isn’t complying with the order.
If sopa/pipa is useless because people can get around the Great American Firewall to still access blocked sites, then how is this different?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

before things just vanished.
Now it will be more surgical, and you could still bypass it by spoofing your IP address, (Like the BBC video player).
They are putting the records on Chilling Effects so people can see why it was done and who was behind it, so much of the time there are things we just don’t know about. This adds more transparency about things, so the people know whom to take to task over these orders.
It isn’t a perfect solution, but it avoids a nightmare of Twitter being banned/blocked in different countries.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“before things just vanished.”
That was their first mistake.

“By order of the high court of China(?).”

Now what?

Seems to me it is to make money, not provide a service.
Why are they listening to China(?)?
Send your message to the world except where it has been asked not to be shown.

More transparency would be replacing twit with a statement stating why it is no longer there. Making me search for a reason by going to another site doesn’t seem that transparent to me. That or not removing twit at all.

Stating it violates US copyright law doesn’t tell me squat either.

We need to quit trying to re-write history. Court ordered or not.

Ninja (profile) says:

Mixed feelings

I have mixed feelings. This solution is actually pretty good, you just ‘censor’ some account in a determined country that issues bad judicial decisions based on flawed data or corporate interests (*cough*USA*cough*) instead of deleting it. Might be a good short-term solution for the censorship attempts from such rogue countries. Twitter is doing it right here and showing the true collors of some rotten countries. But…

Still, censorship is censorship no matter how you paint it.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Mixed feelings

Censorship is bad, but falling on ones sword and ending a business as a protest seems like a bad thing.
With the censorship being more wide known there is a chance the people might be able to move their governments to stop being so stupid.
Keeping twitter going so people can still benefit from it, while encouraging people to understand the issues at play seems like the best plan they can get in these muddy waters.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Censorship will always occur.

They will always be censorship in one manner or another. Censorship happens everyday. Courts censor litigants with gag orders, you censor yourself from telling that funny but not-so nice joke, businesses censor the data they provide to the customers and investors.

Censorship in and of itself is not a bad thing.

What is worse is when you do not even know about the information being censored. When you don’t know what you don’t know. We will never be able to stop all censorship.

The best we can hope is to at least know it is happening and who is doing it.

Because at least then we can work to get around or defeat it.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Under the Radar

“…leaders of oppressive regimes?”

You already know this don’t you? You must. You just stated it.

What will denying twit to those countries and posting to chilling effects accomplish? Inform you that they are an oppressive regime? What site will “chilling effects” post to when they are asked to block that content?

After reading what I am about to paste here, I have to wonder about the EFF as well.
“So if a retail game comes with online-activated DRM or some other method for preventing a second owner from playing, doesn’t that go against this longstanding legal principle? Probably not, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation Intellectual Property Director Corryne McSherry. While the first-sale doctrine says a company can’t stop you from selling, giving away or even breaking your legally purchased software, “I don?t think it is binding on others to assist you in doing all of those things,” she says.

“I think the first-sale doctrine… would say you have a right to sell your old game… and you have the right to purchase a used game… but the first-sale doctrine doesn?t require somebody to build a used book store, if you know what I mean,” she continued. In other words, just because you can sell a used game doesn’t mean the platform maker has to make it easy, or even possible, for the new owner to play it.”

That is double-speak. You have the right to sell used items, so long as original producer doesn’t block it in some way.

Nobody had to build “Auto Trader” or a used car lot either.
These came after the fact.

Laroquod (profile) says:

Compare with Google doing business in China

When Google decided to do business and open up offices in China, etc., they enabled country-specific censorship as part of that move, and they were roundly condemned for it. Nobody even suggested that Google would censor everybody else’s search results in order to comply with China — that was not even on the table: something only a crazy person would suggest.

Boys, have things ever changed. Now, Twitter does the same thing, implementing country-specific censorship, and we are supposed to THANK them for not censoring everybody instead of on a country-specific basis? We are supposed to THANK them for not doing what it was insane to even contemplate Google would do?

I don’t think so. I don’t want Google nor Twitter censoring their results, on any basis. Thank you very much — I am not interested in your country-specific compromise.

btrussell (profile) says:


“A request for an injunction to stop Twitter users from alerting drivers to police roadblocks, radar traps and drunk-driving checkpoints could make Brazil the first country to take Twitter up on its plan to censor content at governments’ requests.

It said it has no plans to remove tweets unless it receives a request from government officials, companies or another outside party that believes the message is illegal.”

No problem here.

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