Politics

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
marsha blackburn, political ads

Companies:
twitter



Twitter Temporarily Blocks Campaign Ad... Getting It Much More Attention

from the don't-let-twitter-be-the-content-police dept

We've argued repeatedly that it's a bad idea to demand that internet platforms like Twitter and Facebook be more proactive in policing content on their services, because it will lead to really bad results -- especially in the political realm. There's been a really dumb move over the past few months, demanding that Twitter kick Donald Trump off Twitter, pointing out that he's pretty clearly violating many of their terms of service. For example, threatening war with North Korea would likely violate the rules against "violent threats (direct or indirect)." And, of course, our President is a walking, tweeting harassment and "hateful conduct" machine. But, Twitter has recently said that it wouldn't kick Trump off the service (which we agree is the right move), because it has a different standard for "newsworthy" tweets, whatever that means.

And, yes, some people will claim that it's unfair to have a double standard, but I think Twitter is correct to not kick Trump off the service. It certainly wouldn't stop the President from getting his thoughts out there, and would only increase the silly martyr act that he and his most vocal supporters love to focus on. But, really, the bigger issue is why anyone should expect Twitter to be doing this kind of decision making in the first place. When you look at other communications systems -- like email or the web in general -- we don't kick people entirely off email or force them to takedown their website just because they say something stupid.

And, when it gets into political content, it gets even sillier. For example, while Twitter won't do anything about Trump (again, the right move...), it did decide to block a campaign ad from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is eagerly running for the Senate to take over the seat Bob Corker is vacating. (Update: as noted in the comment, Twitter allowed the video in Blackburn's stream -- or in anyone else's -- they just blocked it from being promoted through Twitter's ad network). The ad sounded inflammatory and stupid, claiming that she "stopped the sale of baby body parts" and Twitter rejected it for being "inflammatory." Of course, all this did was kick the old Streisand Effect into high gear, giving Blackburn tons of free publicity and extra views of her ad, which was posted on YouTube, without having to buy any advertising. Twitter basically gave her a much wider reach for free by rejecting the ad. And, of course, after all the damage was done, Twitter changed its mind.

Now, I tend to think that Blackburn is one of the worst members of Congress (she's terrible on basically every issue we care about here) and would prefer she not move across Congress to be in the Senate, but she should be able to post whatever stupid ad she wants on Twitter, and just let people on Twitter rip it to shreds, rather than being barred from posting such an ad.

It seems pretty straightforward, but we shouldn't want a private company -- especially one as consistently confused about these things as Twitter -- to be the final arbiter of what political ads or political speech are okay, and what is too "inflammatory." That only leads to bad results -- and all of the free publicity Twitter just gave Blackburn's dumb ad will mean that other politicians will seek to create even more ridiculous ads to get the free "bump" from a Twitter ban. That hardly seems healthy for democracy.


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  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 11 Oct 2017 @ 1:51pm

    Pick and Choose

    I don't understand. They already choose not to ban people like the President who threaten people on twitter which is a violation of their rules. So they're just hypocrites

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:04pm

      Re: Pick and Choose

      what is hard to understand about "certain" people getting special treatment?

      Hypocrisy is the breakfast of champions!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:12pm

      Re: Pick and Choose

      It's not just the president who gets the double-standard treatment.

      Conservative commentators like Dana Loesch routinely receive the most vile of death and rape threats, which when reported to Twitter, are met with "Meh. Not a violation of our community standards". Yet those same conservatives often find themselves suspended/muted over far more innocuous (but anti-left) remarks or over nonsense like "failing to use someone's preferred pronouns".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 3:05pm

        Re: Re: Pick and Choose

        On the flipside, marginalized people who routinely face harassment sometimes have their accounts suspended for daring to speak up against the harassment. Do not act as if this is a “Twitter loves only leftists, libtards, and pinko commie bastards” story. Hell, I have had my account dinged with a brief suspension because I said a cuss word in a reply to a Verified™ account, and I am nowhere near being a conservative.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 8:02am

        Re: Re: Pick and Choose

        Someone said mean things on the internet - The horror!
        Selective enforcement of laws, TOS, EULAs, ..... is standard fare. I doubt it is as one sided as you claim, perhaps you have data to share that would support your wild accusations.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:23pm

      Re: Pick and Choose

      The public approval needed to win a Presidential election might have something to do with it.

      No matter how bad Trump is - including being a "walking, tweeting harassment and 'hateful conduct' machine" - he's *entirely* consistent with how he acted before the election. There have been no surprises. Nothing unpredicted, nothing that wasn't completely obvious long before the election.

      He has exactly the same demeanor, intelligence, maturity and dignity that led the Republican Party to declare him their best possible choice for the job. The same that won the election.

      While I and others are horrified, the country made its decision fully informed. Who is Twitter to disagree?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 8:05am

        Re: Re: Pick and Choose

        Possibly twitter has several levels of membership;
        1) slave
        2) peon
        3) prole
        4) 1%
        5) 0.1%
        6) illuminati

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 1:52am

      Re: Pick and Choose

      Donald Trump should stop making threats to that little fat commie who's threatening to take down our grid now and JUST GO KILL THE MOTHERFUCKER.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    aerinai (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:02pm

    Welcome to Platforms over Protocols

    Unfortunately, platforms are the sexy, new thing that everyone loves. Close down the hatches and let a single company create a 'platform'.

    Email doesn't have this problem because it is a Protocol. Twitter has the problem because it is a platform. BitTorrent doesn't censor applications, because it is a protocol. The Apple App Store has a problem because it is a platform.

    So the more we feed into Platform culture, the more you will see people putting arbitrary control over how people use it. Not necessarily good or bad; it is their right as the platform curator, but we just need to understand curators will censor at their whims because reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rich Kulawiec, 11 Oct 2017 @ 6:48pm

      Re: Welcome to Platforms over Protocols

      1. Absolutely correct. This is why mailing lists are a vastly superior communications mechanism compared to trash like "social media".

      2. Twitter is managed by spineless cowards and run by ignorant newbies. NOTHING it does (or fails to do) is surprising: of course it's incompetent and negligent, why would anybody expect anything else?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:07pm

    You know

    This article, minus all the "wink, wink, you know I hate filthy Republicans and all", would be greatly improved.

    I've grow very weary of all virtue signaling all the time....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:12pm

      Re: You know

      You're the only one signaling anything.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:46pm

      Re: You know

      This article, minus all the "wink, wink, you know I hate filthy Republicans and all", would be greatly improved.

      Huh?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 7:20am

        Re: You know

        If you're not virtue signaling, but are a True Believer, you should recuse yourself from writing articles about Republicans. Techdirt is a site I've supported up to now, but if you want to alienate half of your potential audience....

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 8:11am

          Re: Re: You know

          "but if you want to alienate half of your potential audience"

          I doubt it is half .. btw, just what offends you so much?
          Just curious.

          Why should anyone "recuse" one's self from writing about whatever they want to write about?

          How does the word "recuse" have relevance in the world of journalism? What is the conflict of interest you are addressing here?

          Virtue signaling ... is that like dog whistle?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 11:45am

            Re: Re: Re: You know

            Why should anyone "recuse" one's self from writing about whatever they want to write about?

            Because they recognize when they do so, they make a fool of themselves, and drag down the reputation of their organization?

            But, hey, if the editors and publisher of Techdirt are fine with this, a very large fraction, even if you doubt it's half, of their potential audience can just write it off as terminally pozzed with Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 4:22pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: You know

              Funny thing, while your comment had plenty of insults('make a fool of themselves'/'Trump derangement syndrome'), it was notably lacking in meaningful answers to the questions posed to you.

              Perhaps that was just a minor slip up where you forgot to add it before hitting submit, and in that case feel free to address the questions they mentioned such as:

              What exactly you find so offensive?

              Why TD writers should 'recuse' themselves from covering certain subject(using an actual argument, rather than just 'because it looks silly according to me')?

              Why it's apparently wrong to write articles that mention people(that just so happen to be republicans, not that you'd know reading the articles because it's almost never mentioned) in a less than flattering light, even when the main focus is on a platform they are using.

              I look forward to a more exhaustive response to these questions so that people can better understand your position and the point you are trying to make.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Wendy Cockcroft, 13 Oct 2017 @ 7:42am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You know

                Why is failure to fawn on Trump perceived as anti-Republican? David French, David Frum, and Rick Wilson can't stand him and they can hardly be called anti-Republican.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Oct 2017 @ 7:03pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You know

                  Why is failure to fawn on Trump perceived as anti-Republican?

                  They bought the ugly vase and now they have to pretend it is beautiful.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  The Wanderer (profile), 17 Oct 2017 @ 6:17am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You know

                  Not to mention George F. Will, who has been so consistently conservative in his published views for as long as I've known who he is that I've virtually never agreed with him - to the extent that I've gotten in the habit of referring to him semi-derisively as "Fwill" - but whose every column that I've seen post-Trump-election has been eloquently but vitriolically anti-Trump.

                  He appears to be a genuine, consistent, philosophical/ideological conservative, rather than a Republican partisan - and there are too few such people left, for any political faction or facet, in the modern world.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Oct 2017 @ 7:10pm

          Re: Re: You know

          Techdirt is a site I've supported up to now

          In the immortal words of The Gord: “Door’s to your left.”

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David Muir (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:36pm

    Extra word?

    she's terrible on basically every issue we care about her

    Do you need a semi-colon between "issue" and "we" to show sympathy for Blackburn? Or remove "her" to show distaste? I suspect the latter. Hehehe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 2:55pm

    Of course Twitter has a different standard for "newsworthy" tweets.

    That means it has "financial" and "viral" factors embedded in its CORPORATE standard.

    "Community standard" is a euphemism here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 8:07am

      Re:

      Of course Twitter has a different standard for "newsworthy" tweets.

      It's obvious that "newsworthy" is not the actual standard. Many racists etc. have been in the news and still kicked off of Twitter.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 11 Oct 2017 @ 3:32pm

    what really happened.

    *putting on aluminum hat*

    Twitter was secretly working for Blackburn to help promote her campaign.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 4:37pm

    What a biased rant against everything but what the article was about. You lost the election, get over it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2017 @ 6:05pm

    Minor mistake in this article!

    Twitter blocked the ad from being spread using their promoted/paid advertising services. The ad was NEVER blocked from her personal twitter or from anyone retweeting it.

    People saw "THE AD WAS BLOCKED" and went crazy, but it was only blocked from being advertised to others using twitters services, thus the 'inflammatory' objection to the ad.

    Twitter is perfectl allowed to reject any advertising on its platform that it wants that it is hosting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 8:06pm

      Re:

      So not so much 'You can't post that at all on our platform', and more 'You can post it on our platform, but we're not going to be spreading it for you using our ad service'.

      That does change things quite a bit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 9:17pm

      Re:

      Plus, latest I heard is Twitter walked even that back.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 11 Oct 2017 @ 11:29pm

      Re:

      Twitter blocked the ad from being spread using their promoted/paid advertising services. The ad was NEVER blocked from her personal twitter or from anyone retweeting it.

      Very useful. I will update the article.

      Twitter is perfectl allowed to reject any advertising on its platform that it wants that it is hosting.

      I never said otherwise. But I still think it was stupid and shortsighted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 2:06am

    The meat and potatoes here should be that President is tweeting* threats to crazy fat man who wants to destroy every man woman and child while the world sits holding its breath. Not that twitter should interfere and prevent him from doing it. Someone should tell the President to stop making the threats on this platform period. Send in the B1s.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 7:07am

    And Techdirt has officially become partisan

    Techdirt use to have interesting articles about intellectual property and other issues that affected technology. Now it has been reduced to simply repeating democrats good republicans bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 8:17am

      Re: And Techdirt has officially become partisan

      "democrats good republicans bad"

      Life is so simple when you only have two buckets.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 4:07pm

      'You were critical of someone I (apparently) support' = 'Partisan'

      If people keep doing/saying stupid things, and they just so happen to belong to the same party as you, it may seem like they're ragging on 'your' party, but that's just a side effect of those people being in your tribe.

      Out of curiosity, is it even possible to say something negative about a republican(and I'll note that the article had no mention of which party she belonged to) without being 'partisan' under the standards you use?

      Likewise, would you have been playing the partisan card has the individual in question been a democrat?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 13 Oct 2017 @ 7:46am

        Re: 'You were critical of someone I (apparently) support' = 'Partisan'

        Given the number of time TD has lambasted the Dem's Diane Feinstein, Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 7:07am, I call foul. TD has no partisan bias; if anything it seems to lean libertarian, which confuses the hell out of partisans who try to reduce us to a red or blue option.

        Go, Techdirt!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Oct 2017 @ 7:01pm

      Re: And Techdirt has officially become partisan

      Techdirt called out actions by the Obama administration during the entirety of Obama’s time in office. This site does not devolve into partisan hackery unless one party—or one politician from one party—does something stupid.

      Democrats and Republicans are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. The actions they take, and the consequences that follow, reflect upon themselves. A Democrat can make a dumbass decision that works against the public interest just the same as a Republican. If you believe that one party is always good and the other is always bad—no matter which party is on which side—you might want to re-examine your thought processes.

      And if you think Techdirt hates Republicans/conservatives but loves to metaphorically (or literally!) suck the dicks Democrats/progressives, you will need to prove it for anyone else here to take you seriously.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NaBUru38 (profile), 12 Oct 2017 @ 2:35pm

    "The ad sounded inflammatory and stupid, and Twitter rejected it. Of course, all this did was kick the old Streisand Effect into high gear, giving Blackburn tons of free publicity and extra views of her ad, without having to buy any advertising."

    That's part of the plan, of course. Ranting conspiracy is how Trump got free airtime since he ran for Republican candidate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2017 @ 5:23pm

    Twitter is glorified RSS with comments and a character limit.

    Twitter seems to keep controversial people around if they are able to become a talking point for others, or are just well-connected enough (both sides :P).

    ... Did you know Twitter's up/down web traffic naturally matches the profile of a DDOS?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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