As you know, I write about Twitter a lot here on the site. There’s a good reason for that. As someone said in a (Twitter) group chat the other day, the service has been very good to me, with some exceptions. First off, many of you probably discovered me from Twitter. I’ve met people from all over the world thanks to Jack Dorsey’s (co)invention, some of whom I’ve grown to know and love. The hours of fun I’ve had tweeting greatly outnumber the bad times. But when I hear about the latest round of censorship apparently going on, it makes me wonder how many days of enjoyment I have left.
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a graphic explaining it a little bit:
Here’s more from Vice’s Motherboard…
Twitter is limiting certain tweets from appearing on select user accounts, according to activists—including some that mention a blockbuster report from The Intercept that revealed damning information about the US drone campaign in Syria and Yemen.
It’s not clear at the moment whether the disappearing tweets are due to a weird bug, or whether the company is actually censoring mentions of an in-depth report on how the US military relies on largely unconfirmable data to justify assassinations, among other revelations. While some activists claim that they are being censored, however, other users report that everything is working fine on their end.
Paul Dietrich, an activist and independent analyst of government leaks, published a post on his personal blog where he described how tweets related to The Intercept’s report called “The Drone Papers,” no longer appeared on their authors’ timelines. The posts were still viewable if linked to directly, and when the timelines in question were viewed from behind a VPN—which allows users to browse with an IP in another country—the tweets were there.
Twitter has allegedly talked about this tool in the past. Take a look that this blog post from the spring:
Second, we have begun to test a product feature to help us identify suspected abusive Tweets and limit their reach. This feature takes into account a wide range of signals and context that frequently correlates with abuse including the age of the account itself, and the similarity of a Tweet to other content that our safety team has in the past independently determined to be abusive. It will not affect your ability to see content that you’ve explicitly sought out, such as Tweets from accounts you follow, but instead is designed to help us limit the potential harm of abusive content. This feature does not take into account whether the content posted or followed by a user is controversial or unpopular.
While dedicating more resources toward better responding to abuse reports is necessary and even critical, an equally important priority for us is identifying and limiting the incentives that enable and even encourage some users to engage in abuse. We’ll be monitoring how these changes discourage abuse and how they help ensure the overall health of a platform that encourages everyone’s participation. And as the ultimate goal is to ensure that Twitter is a safe place for the widest possible range of perspectives, we will continue to evaluate and update our approach in this critical arena.
It’s not a very good look for Twitter, to say the least. They used to been seen as a bastion of free speech. Now, they’re just the latest in a long line of tech companies to fall short when it comes to projecting the cherished Western value of open discourse. How many more days do we have left? The walls are rapidly closing in, and I’m not sure we’re going to be able to stop it.
That doesn’t mean we have to go quietly into that good night. We need to fight like fucking monsters to reverse this trend. It’s not impossible, no matter how dire it looks right now. At the very least, we can make our own alternatives. That’s one reason I’ve focused on building a community here on the site, as personal platforms will be the very last thing they can take away. Speak out on social media.
Tell your friends about the dangerous trend that is sweeping the net right now. Most people are naturally repelled when you tell them their speech is going to be limited, but it’s up to us to spread the word. Folks don’t know unless you tell them, because they don’t spend as much time on all this as we do. Go out there and spread the word. We can no longer afford to sit back and take a free internet for granted.
Here’s a show I just appeared on talking about all this a little bit (I come on about halfway through). You can check that out while I go work on the next post.