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Can you trust Twitter?

Twitter lit up Friday night with allegations that it tried to suppress news that secret-leaking website Wikileaks exposed thousands of emails obtained from the servers of the Democratic National Committee.

Friday afternoon, users noted, “#DNCLeaks” was trending, with more than 250,000 tweets about it on the platform. By Friday evening, it vanished completely from the site’s “trending” bar for at least 20 minutes. It returned as “#DNCLeak” after users erupted, though it was too late to quell their rage.

Twitter accused of suppressing DNC Wikileaks story »


Government using private sector censorship for political objectives

Censorship is censorship. If you block someone from speaking freely or delete people’s content from the Internet you do censor them.

But there are different sorts of censorship.

One is when the government silences opposition, controversial voices or whatever. That is, in general terms, a violation of freedom of speech and our civil rights. That should not be accepted in a democratic society.

Another form of censorship is when Twitter censors Milo Yiannopolous, when Google censor artist Dennis Cooper or when Facebook is accused of downgrading news depending on political affiliations.

These are private companies and they choose to whom they want to provide their services. This is clearly stated in these companies voluminous terms and conditions.

So, OK – social media giants can censor people (and ideas). But should they?

The fact that Google, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter can censor people in a legally »correct« way in no way should protect them from being criticized for doing so.

And they should be criticized! Especially as their dominance on the social media scene is almost total. Their actions have political consequences. And they might very well have a political agenda.

(As a libertarian I run into this issue a lot. Just because I dislike something, I do not have the desire or right to outlaw it. But still, as a consumer, user or concerned citizen I am free to criticize e.g. censorship – and to loudly point out its risks and problems.)

But recently the lines are getting blurred. As I have pointed out in previous blog posts, governments (most recently the EU) are teaming up with major social media players to use the latter’s legal framework to silence voices that politicians dislike. Thus circumventing the legal system and the rule of law – and moving government censorship out of democratic control.

This is a serious, mounting problem.



Will the banning of @nero mark the »Peak Twitter« moment?

Twitter banning Milo Yiannopolous is a story with interesting dimensions.

Yiannopolous is very entertaining. He’s got some points. And he often provokes some interesting reactions.

Yiannopolous also is a loudmouth and a troll. He doesn’t really give a shit. And sometimes his opinions are rather disturbing.

The banning might very well have marked a »Peak Twitter« moment.

The party is over. I think this might cause immense damage to Twitters image and trademark. Twitter just isn’t as exciting anymore.

One interesting point of view is that this is not about free speech. Twitter is a private company. We have all agreed to their terms & conditions. Twitter can do whatever they want.

But this can, and should not shield Twitter from criticism. As a Twitter user, I am very disgruntled over the banning of @nero.

And this might actually be about free speech after all. Didn’t the EU just agree with Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to remove »radicalising« and »hateful« content? And isn’t that just a way to circumvent the rule of law when it comes to freedom of speech?

It’s just like when US authorities couldn’t find any legal ways to stop Wikileaks. So they got Paypal, Master Card, and the banks to cut off the funding. Extrajudicial proceedings, indeed.

Then, again, this affair might stimulate and accelerate the development of new social media platforms that are distributed, decentralised and impossible to censor.

Or the opposite – people moving to closed forums for the like-minded.

But Twitter as a »safe space«? That sounds boring.


• Twitter’s Stalinist Unpersoning of Gay Provocateur Milo Yiannopolous »
• I’m With The Banned »