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As Press Freedom Dies In Turkey, Twitter Is There To Help Dig Its Grave

from the enablers dept

Turkish president Recep Erdogan figures the best critic is a silenced critic. Determined to "earn" the respect of people worldwide, Erdogan and his government have engaged in unprecedented censorship. This goes far beyond the punishment of its own citizens. Erdogan has tried to secure charges and prosecutions from other governments against their own citizens for having the temerity to not take him as seriously as he takes himself.

Erdogan takes down newspapers and platforms with equal aplomb. He does this to stop things like the following from circulating:

It doesn't work, of course. Nothing gets censored worldwide and whatever censorship hits home can be circumvented. But of all the internet targets, Twitter is Erdogan's absolute favorite. The Committee to Protect Journalists has done the math. Its excellent article on Erdogan's censorship activities makes it clear that all other countries are merely pretenders to the throne when it comes to talking Twitter into doing their dirty work.

Over 1.5 million tweets have been withheld in Turkey by Twitter, thanks to Turkish government demands. Frequently targeted by removal requests are citizens who would normally be afforded extra speech protections in countries not run by a thin-skinned thug. And an American company playing ball with an authoritarian doesn't leave much room for recourse.

When CPJ reviewed a Buzzfeed News database of over 1,700 accounts withheld in one or more countries, along with court orders uploaded by tech companies to Harvard University's Lumen database, tweets, Twitter lists, and news reports, it was able to identify at least 59 Twitter accounts that belong to journalists and media outlets censored using the CWC tool in Turkey. As of late July, those 59 accounts had a combined following of over six million, in a country of about 11 million Twitter users.

Journalists whose accounts have been censored by CWC [country withheld content]requests told CPJ that Twitter is inconsistent with its compliance with such requests and complained about the lack of remediation options.

Journalists tweeting about the decline of press freedoms in Turkey are seeing their tweets removed by a compliant Twitter. And this is all Twitter has to say about its compliance in the decline of press freedoms in Turkey:

Colin Crowell, Twitter's head of global public policy, told CPJ, "If [we] don't use CWC, then the alternative is to remove [the content] globally [then] nobody can see it."

But that simply isn't true. Twitter has to know there's a third option: no removal at all. Even if the request is lawful in Turkey, Turkey's speech laws are terrible. Twitter doesn't have to make things worse by letting the Turkish government steamroll critics via removal requests. Sure, that means it might lose access to an entire country, but it shouldn't be so willing to be an extension of an abusive government.

It's not just a Twitter problem. Google's decision to help build the Chinese government a censored search engine is unacceptable, no matter how many more millions of users Google might reach.

Turkey's government may drive the content removal business on Twitter, but there's censorship everywhere from authoritarian regimes being aided by US companies that should act as a bulwark against tyranny. At the very least, there should be constant pushback against demands like these, rather than acquiescence under the disingenuous theory that blocking content worldwide is the only alternative.


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  • identicon
    Blue forced me to get an account, 20 Aug 2018 @ 3:12pm

    "Google's decision to help build the Chinese government a censored search engine is unacceptable, no matter how many more millions of users Google might reach. "

    "There goes Techdirt, shilling for Google again."

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

  • identicon
    Unanimous Cow Herd, 20 Aug 2018 @ 4:02pm

    Keep shouting..

    about how these are "private corporations".

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 4:31pm

      Re: Keep shouting..

      Yes, ones that make economic decisions. Sometimes stupid ones. Sometimes ones they shouldn't. Sometimes ones that might come back and bite them in the ass down the road.

      Twitters marketing team might make the decision that they are for free speech. Well, at least speech that does not denigrate others. The economic value of keeping Turkey...shall we say onboard...might outweigh their 'other ethical values'. Then again, they have a board of directors and a CEO who might overrule them.

      Oh, and the rules here in the US, are not the same as in Turkey. Twitters choices are to pull out, and lose revenue, or stay and fight with the government, or do what they did, which retains what revenue is left. If they have no equipment in the country...well the government has other ways to control them, whether or not they are a Turkish company.

      Their behavior does have a lot to say about their ethics, though. Whether the rest of the world cares about their ethics will be communicated through the marketplace. If Mastodon has any kind of marketing effort, I would think they would take serous advantage of this incident.

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 7:13pm

        Re: Re: Keep shouting..

        If Mastodon has any kind of marketing effort, I would think they would take serous advantage of this incident.

        In fairness, Mastodon is a protocol rather than a platform, but word of mouth has been spreading about Masto ever since Jack decided to be a dumbass about Alex Jones.

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 7:30pm

          Re: Re: Re: Keep shouting..

          There, word of mouth. If any of the Mastodon users also had Twitter accounts...

          Or, for that matter, any other social media accounts...

          Get the word out. Make Twitter another insignificance, like MySpace. It might be a good thing. Then again, it might be a very bad thing. We will know, sometime.

          I looked quickly at their 'rules and terms'. If they work like Techdirt does, then great. If not, then there may be problems. I hope for the former. I understand that there are various forums, and that each might respond differently, but they should be in some form consistent in how they go about moderation.

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

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 8:24pm

            FYI, while mastodon.social is the “flagship” Mastodon instance, it is by no means the only one. Other instances generally customize their own rules and terms of service. (oulipo.social, for example, forbids the letter e from being used in any post, save for any usage within URLs.) Lots of people have started out on m.s before moving on to an instance that better aligns with their interests or personality.

            And believe it or not, lots of Masto users either have or had accounts on other social interaction networks. m.s had a couple of influxes in the past couple of weeks that were driven by Twitter fuck-ups, so the word is getting out where it matters, at least.

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 7:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: Keep shouting..

          There, word of mouth. If any of the Mastodon users also had Twitter accounts...

          Or, for that matter, any other social media accounts...

          Get the word out. Make Twitter another insignificance, like MySpace. It might be a good thing. Then again, it might be a very bad thing. We will know, sometime.

          I looked quickly at their 'rules and terms'. If they work like Techdirt does, then great. If not, then there may be problems. I hope for the former. I understand that there are various forums, and that each might respond differently, but they should be in some form consistent in how they go about moderation.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 20 Aug 2018 @ 4:18pm

    Oh Erdogollum

    We love you so much we just want to talk about you all the time!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 5:12pm

    Twitter has to know there's a third option: no removal at all. Even if the request is lawful in Turkey, Turkey's speech laws are terrible. Twitter doesn't have to make things worse by letting the Turkish government steamroll critics via removal requests. Sure, that means it might lose access to an entire country, but it shouldn't be so willing to be an extension of an abusive government.

    It's hard to blame Twitter for making the their choice in favor of maximum reach. Erdogan isn't a known as a big tweeter. Cutting off all access to Twitter in Turkey would only hurt the people. Not censoring any of the flagged tweets would only result in Turkey blocking Twitter entirely. There really are only two choices here.

    Tim, somehow I doubt you'd make a different choice if you were in their position.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 5:20pm

      Re:

      There's another option, for Erdogan. Force Twitter to block anything Erdogan doesn't like. Yes, people in Turkey would be hurt, but they are being hurt anyway by Erdogon's speech laws.

      Still, they apparently re-elected him. That is if the elections were actually free. Hard to tell from here, and hard to believe Erdogon's (or his minion's) assertions. We need to hear more from the Turkish people. All the Turkish people (even the Kurds), not just those 'approved' for communication.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 7:07pm

      Re:

      Tim, somehow I doubt you'd make a different choice if you were in their position.

      Sounds more like you're speaking of yourself.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Sayonara Felicia-San (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 5:17pm

    At least they are consistent...

    ...in their dystopian censorship of speech, both at home, and abroad.

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

    • identicon
      The Higher Power You Always Wanted, 20 Aug 2018 @ 5:32pm

      Tell us what you really think, if you can...doubtful

      You seem consistent in your dystopian point of view that ignores any other possibility. Things are always bad to you. Nothing is ever good. It's a wonder how you manage to continue to exist, being so negative and all.

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

    • identicon
      Your Alter Ego, 20 Aug 2018 @ 5:45pm

      Re: At least they are consistent...

      Your not consistent. Your an idiot. Did you graduate high school? Ah, got it. Home schooled, GED, and the University Of Phoenix online with a degree in very liberal arts. You should study some of the things you spout about. It would at least make you less of a rhetoric repeater, rhetoric you don't seem to comprehend.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 6:07pm

      Re: At least they are consistent...

      Yes, dystopian censorship regimes are well-known for banning people out in the open according to published terms of service.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 5:36pm

    They just following the USA's lead

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 5:39pm

      Re: They just following the USA's lead

      Once Alex Jones got booted
      the floodgates will open and they have .
      Like don't like the guy so what . Once speech is regulated to the winds of change it will soon blow your way also.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 6:51pm

        Re: Re: They just following the USA's lead

        Legally they can regulate speech all day long no matter which way the winds blows.

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 7:00pm

          Re: Re: Re: They just following the USA's lead

          As long as your fine being mindless sheep following the
          herd

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 7:48pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: They just following the USA's lead

            Sheeple*

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

          • icon
            orbitalinsertion (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 8:11pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: They just following the USA's lead

            Amazing how some platform choosing what it hosts or not makes everyone else mindless sheep. In particular, those people who criticize these platforms with some nuance, somehow, are mindless. Most especially those who defend the right to speech they don't personally subscribe to. What a bunch of assholes.

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 7:18pm

        How would you feel if you operated a social interaction network like Twitter and the government told you that you would face legal consequences if you refused to host anything published by Alex Jones?

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2018 @ 7:34pm

          Re:

          wait what was that all those years ago when media companies
          actually had a spine ? water waiter club gate ?
          Now media today is but a puppet for leftist filled propaganda .
          Great job of portraying the illegal Mexican as the victim only trying to take his wife for a C section and big bad ICE
          just had to harass the helpless victim .
          Oh wait BTW he was only a wanted felon for murder in mexico .
          damm didn't fit the narrative again .

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

  • icon
    wawrn (profile), 20 Aug 2018 @ 8:18pm

    So we can see from this article that Twitter willfully embraces real censorship in Turkey. The government makes an order and Twitter follows.

    If you didn't believe in censorship why would you use Twitter? Anyone against censorship is just a hypocrite for relying on Twitter.

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

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 21 Aug 2018 @ 5:02am

    So...

    Censoring white supremacist racists=good, censoring Turkish dissidents=bad? Personally, I agree with your judgment of the content being censored, but you need to make up your mind whether you defend Twitter's right to edit and manage content like white supremacist drivel on the site or whether you oppose it because Twitter is a public forum for voices like Turkish dissidents that otherwise would go unheard.

    The only real difference I can see between Twitter's behavior in the US vs. it's behavior in Turkey is that in one case the pressure comes from social pressure, mostly grassroots, while the Turkish actions come at the behest of the government and Erdogan himself. Rooting for the underdog and rebelling against government tyranny are natural for Americans, but those aren't necessarily _rational_ arguments.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 21 Aug 2018 @ 5:27am

      Someone can both defend Twitter’s legal right to moderate content and disagree with Twitter’s moderation choices.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2018 @ 5:52am

      Re: So...

      There is a difference between Twitter deciding to through some people off of their service, and Twitter complying with government requests to through people off, or censor their posts. The latter is a dangerous path to take, because it encourages other governments to demand more control over who can use twitter, and what needs filtering.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2018 @ 7:22am

      Re: So...

      "Censoring white supremacist racists=good, censoring Turkish dissidents=bad? "


      What is it, exactly, that you are trying to say?

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

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 21 Aug 2018 @ 10:06am

      Re: So...

      So...

      Oh, we're doing the "in other words" thing?

      "So..." -- in other words, "I'm about to make a strawman argument."

      The only real difference I can see between Twitter's behavior in the US vs. it's behavior in Turkey is that in one case the pressure comes from social pressure, mostly grassroots, while the Turkish actions come at the behest of the government and Erdogan himself.

      And...you don't see that difference as significant?

      Really?

      You don't understand the difference between private moderation and government action?

      Rooting for the underdog and rebelling against government tyranny are natural for Americans, but those aren't necessarily rational arguments.

      I'll bite.

      In what way is it irrational to say that social pressure by private citizens is fundamentally different from a legal mandate by a government?

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

  • identicon
    Smartassicus the Roman, 21 Aug 2018 @ 2:28pm

    Basting Erdogan's Turkey Ambushed

    I've personally had three tweets about Erdogan removed from twitter, and I'm in the USA.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    CHATHU, 21 Aug 2018 @ 4:40pm

    Basting Erdogan's T

    I've personally had three tweets about Erdogan removed from twitter, and I'm in the USA.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 11:11am

    This much like all the Trump stuff, is a non-presidential company or person working for political ends with a foreign government.

    Doesn't help that twitter stopped being "cool" to anyone under 50 about 2 years ago.

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

  • identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, 22 Aug 2018 @ 11:14am

    Wonder if Erdogan can get Senator Wyden to work for him?

    https://www.infowars.com/senator-ron-wyden-demands-consequences-for-platforms-that-dont-remove-peopl e-like-alex-jones/

    Quote:

    “What I’m gonna be trying to do in my legislation is to really lay out what the consequences are when somebody who is a bad actor, somebody who really doesn’t meet the decency principles that reflect our values, if that bad actor blows by the bounds of common decency, I think you gotta have a way to make sure that stuff is taken down,” he added.

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


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