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posted by martyb on Saturday October 31 2015, @09:51PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the delayed-dissemination-deemed-despicable dept.

Over the past year as the communications service Twitter has rolled out new features with the stated goal of stopping "abusive tweets", critics have expressed concerns that this technology may be used for political censorship. These concerns received broader attention last week when Cryptome published a report by Paul Dietrich alleging that Twitter had hidden information about leaked NSA papers from American users.

As alleged by Dietrich, Twitter will hide information from users for the critical period of the first 24 hours, when users are most likely to spread the information, before allowing the information to be seen again. The disappearance and reappearance of the information resembles a software glitch. Dietrich describes this mechanism as "Censorship that doesn't look like censorship... Subtle, deniable, and quite ruthless."

Concerns about the system were first raised in April by Twitter user Daddy Warpig who reported that Twitter was hiding all posts by certain users of the conservative #TCOT and liberal #Gamergate hashtags along with users affiliated with the Sad Puppies campaign of science-fiction authors protesting against a perceived bias in the Hugo Awards.

Twitter introduced a revised system in May, stating that it would hide only "tweets sent directly to an individual which are from a recently registered account and use language similar to previously flagged messages." Lizzy Finnegan, a writer for the Escapist, discovered that Twitter was hiding messages from established users who had previously used the #Gamergate hashtag but was not blocking new accounts created to test the system by sending the exact same messages.

[More after the break.]

This is not the only time that Twitter has been accused of censorship. A report headlined by Rima Tamash of Rice University found that Twitter had censored 266,407 tweets of 7,642 Turkish users, with censored topics including politicians and the Aydin Dogan media group. In mid-July, Twitter deleted the accounts of several Japanese artists in response to a complaint from the Russian government that their works were pornographic. Earlier this year, Twitter suspended conservative commentator Janet Bloomfield and manmade-global-warming denier Steven Goddard for no apparent reason other than their beliefs.

Twitter has also been accused of targeting citizen journalists for reporting news that offends powerful interests. Vicki Pate of Re-Newsit was banned from Twitter after posting a satirical cartoon of attorney Benjamin Crump. Pate had written about the financial dealings of Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, a business partner in the Upfront Foundation with Twitter director of innovation Claire Diaz-Oritz. RadioNewz was suspended from Twitter after reporting on Pate's suspension. In May, Twitter banned Chuck C. Johnson of GotNews for soliting donations "to taking out" Black Lives Matter protester Deray McKesson with a future expose.

Twitter banned minor Youtube celebrity LeoPirate shortly after LeoPirate reported on leaked internet chat logs revealing the past pedophilic tendencies of Nicholas Nyberg, the administrator of the video game music website FFShrine who currently writes for feminist websites under the pen name Sarah Butts. Twitter also banned the account of Encyclopedia Dramatica for reporting on the subject and briefly suspended former Washington Times assistant editor Robert Stacy McCain for linking to one of his own articles about it.

As previously mentioned on Soylent News, late last year Twitter suspended several accounts associated with opposition to the Atheism+ movement and the Gamergate scandal.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Twitter Suspends Indie Journalists 43 comments

Atheist vlogger Thunderf00t reports that Jordan Owen, Slade Villena, and Mykeru were "all suspended from twitter for no reason." Jordan Owen is the co-producer of the documentary The Sarkeesian Effect, a critique of the methods of controversial vlogger Anita Sarkeesian. Mykeru is the producer of The Block Bot and the Dumbification of the Beeb, a critique of the BBC Newsnight segment "Talking to the Twitter Trolls and those Who Study them". Slade Villena is a former writer for Gamasutra and the founder of indie game developer Rogue Star Games.

Thunderf00t himself was suspended from Twitter for two weeks in September for unclear reasons. At that time Twitter had also banned the account of "The Camera Lady", the researcher for a video series accusing award-winning developer Phil Fish and the Independent Games Festival of racketeering.

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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:14PM (#257008)

    Well, it's not the government doing it, so it's not really censorship.</sarcasm>

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:20PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:20PM (#257011)

      #

      OMG! They are trying to censor the Sad Puppies! Look! They just erased my hashtag!

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:34PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:34PM (#257014)

        Whoa now, that hash tag is exactly where you left it. The string of characters after it, though, is in a classified location for processing. Move along, netizen!

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:32PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:32PM (#257013)

      Yes, the government is certainly not the only one who can censor information. It's like some people think that censorship is always necessarily bad or not allowed, so private companies must be incapable of it, but that is a misunderstanding of what qualifies as censorship.

      Censorship can be immoral and legal at the same time. Too many people misinterpret criticisms of some kind of censorship as saying "The website owner isn't legally allowed to do this.", but that is not what is being said.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:45PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @10:45PM (#257018)

        It's like some people think that censorship is always necessarily bad or not allowed, so private companies must be incapable of it

        I think it's more that people often conflate 'free speech' and 'the First Amendment to the United States Constitution', which states that the gov't isn't allowed to "[abridge] the freedom of speech", i.e. practice censorship.

        The fact that there are laws against goverment censorship, but that there are no laws against private censorship, doesn't make it any less censorship.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by K_benzoate on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:02PM

        by K_benzoate (5036) on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:02PM (#257023)

        You also need to understand that for a small but vocal minority freedom of speech has been seriously deemphasized in favor of emotional comfort (safe spaces) and inclusivity--which is a stalking horse for bullying anyone deemed to be tainted by "privilege". They are very much in favor of drawing a line around freedom of speech to exclude anything they consider "hate speech" or "problematic speech". Their definition for these categories is so broad, and so fluid, that granting them control over this vetting process amounts to handing them carte blanch to veto anyone's human rights on a whim.

        This isn't liberalism, it's authoritarianism, and real liberals who want to preserve liberal values like Freedom of Expression had better stand up and object to this behavior. These horribly illiberal policies simply have to lose. The edifice of human rights is built on the foundation of Free Expression and if we lose that foundation we are doomed. There's nothing that can't be taken away from you once you've lost the freedom to object. This is serious stuff, and it matters even if the specific skirmishes appear to be happening in rather trivial cultural spaces. Who cares about video games and sci-fi books? You should, because one day they'll come for something YOU do care about [dancerscode.com] and your ranks of allies will be that much thinner for your inaction.

        --
        Climate change is real and primarily caused by human activity.
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday November 01 2015, @07:14AM

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday November 01 2015, @07:14AM (#257114) Journal

          They are very much in favor of drawing a line around freedom of speech to exclude anything they consider "hate speech" or "problematic speech".

          The whole concept of hate speech is rather more than problematic. To the extent some speech is outlawed, instead of telling people to just grow a skin, it is an obvious end-run around the constitution. Its an imported idea, probably from Europe (where we are told everything is done better) where they have no such thing as a first amendment, and no strong belief in free speech.

          But still, that assumes we talking about government action.

          There is really no expectation for twitter to never censor, or to let their platform become some a huge flame-fest, and have the whole platform banned in every third country.

          Still One wonders how they choose which tweets to delay, which accounts to close, and who to ban.
          Do they have a large number of "watchers" guarding subject areas, or are they using software filters? Who gets to set those filters?
          Are there agreements in place to allow the Russian or Greek governments to specify filters? Does every government get a say?

          But the very first question that comes to my mind is just how VAPID does one have to be to build a Soylent News submission like this one?

          It boggles the mind that someone would spend enough time to mine this subject for all those examples of censorship. Worse yet is the possibility that the AC who submitted this post actually paid so much attention to twitter that he or she was aware of all those examples without having to do much research. The mere thought sends shivers up my spine

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04 2015, @04:51AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 04 2015, @04:51AM (#258281)

          You also need to understand that for a small but vocal minority freedom of speech has been seriously deemphasized in favor of emotional comfort (safe spaces) and inclusivity--which is a stalking horse for bullying anyone deemed to be tainted by "privilege".

          Oh? Do you have some proof of that, or are you referring to the always-referenced, mythical, non-existent-outside-of-persecution-complex-riddled-delusions boogymen known as "SJW"s and "PC"?

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @06:23AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @06:23AM (#257107)

        I can tell you that should I reveal my concept of religion in the church I used to attend, I *will* be censored.

        The staff will signal the musicians to start up should I speak anything not in line with what we've been told to say. I am no match for kilowatts of amplifiers, and they know that. Its rude for me to "raise my voice" but its quite OK to twist a knob to deafening levels if you have a noise making instrument in hand.

        They know good and well we are subordinate to the machine. One can be unspeakably rude to anyone as long as you have a piece of technology with you. Its the *phone!* gotta go!. The computer won't clear you. Whatever. We have been trained since birth that machines take priority over us. Preachers know this well. So they have lots of powerful amplifiers to make sure the discussion is one way and one way only.

        It's their church. Not mine. So I can't say much more about it than I have said here.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Runaway1956 on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:01PM

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:01PM (#257022) Homepage Journal

    What kind of person doesn't love puppies? What kind of person kicks puppies? Well, that's tolerance for you!

    --
    There is a supply side shortage of pronouns. You will take whatever you are offered.
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @09:17AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @09:17AM (#257125)

      (Psst! Runaway! Over here, man! Look, they are _not_ really puppies, OK? They are poor excuses for human beings looking to play the "discrimination just because we are male, straight, and white, and write really bad science-fiction" card. Social Justice Warriors are more than justified in going after such misogynist scum, just like Anonymous is justified in going after KKK members. Tolerance? For Nazis? What are you thinking, Runaway? Have you lost your remaining brain cells? Twitter should not just block these people, they should report them to the authorities, or barring that, to Anonymous. So dude, keep it straight, and play it cool!)

      • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Sunday November 01 2015, @10:30AM

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Sunday November 01 2015, @10:30AM (#257128) Homepage Journal

        Ho-hum. I stand with Vox Day and Tom Kratman on the issue. The puppies are NOT mysogenists. Oh, a couple of them might be. It's possible. But, as a group, no they are not. But, you keep drinking that Kool-Aid. It's a free country after all.

        --
        There is a supply side shortage of pronouns. You will take whatever you are offered.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:13PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:13PM (#257026)

    Twitter is not a government. It's not even an ISP. You post your twatty bits on their system at their pleasure.

    Twitter really make people dumber, don't they.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:29PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:29PM (#257031) Journal

      If nobody complains about corporate censorship, it will continue to happen.

      If Twitter pisses off enough users, it goes under. Advertisers may be the customers, but users still matter.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:58PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 31 2015, @11:58PM (#257037)

        Are you new? Nothing that pisses off users/people ever goes away. Sure, people bitch about corporate abuse and threaten to boycott/revolt/whatever but few follow through. Systemd, Facebook, Twitter, Xbox, Windows 10 forced-upgrades/telemetry/shenanigans, Google, Apple, unwarranted government surveillance, lying politicians, criminal cops, and round we go...

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @12:21AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @12:21AM (#257047)

          Since 2001, successfull boycotts have been considered "economic terrorism". You are allowed to complain as long as you are not effective in doing so.

          In Canada, Charities are barred from eliminating poverty [thejournal.ie]. In effect, they are limited to treating the symptoms of the problem, rather than the root causes. In it's reasoning the CRA essentially said that eliminating poverty is not a charitable goal because rich people also benefit.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @01:41AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @01:41AM (#257070)

            These days as more and more smaller businesses get replaced by a few big businesses and big businesses own most of the natural resources it's hard to boycott anything. To boycott one company leaves you with few alternatives and those alternatives often also deserve to get boycotted themselves.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by cmn32480 on Sunday November 01 2015, @04:15PM

          by cmn32480 (443) <reversethis-{gro ... {ta} {08423nmc}> on Sunday November 01 2015, @04:15PM (#257178) Journal

          Slashdot?

          --
          "It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milkbone underwear" - Norm Peterson
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by cubancigar11 on Sunday November 01 2015, @05:32AM

      by cubancigar11 (330) on Sunday November 01 2015, @05:32AM (#257100) Homepage Journal

      Twitter is a political platform. There is a reason why so many influential people and journalists are on it. It is not because those influential people want the world to know what they ate on a lonely night. It is because it is sort of a research tool for journalists, who can see that #NewThing is trending and know that it is what people want.

      This puts twitter in a historically unprecedented spot of being a private entity which has huge influence on public opinion but is not a media company in itself. We are talking about a company that sells papyrus and has a say on what gets printed on it.

      People chanting 'private company' should keep in mind that new way of doing things bring new problems and old solutions sometimes are not sufficient. Twitter is already in a position to bring mass censorship and it being private company is not enough, because it is always the new voice that gets censored.

      And that is the problem with so called liberals. When they are in power they will come-up with all kinds of reasons to let censorship go but if the conservatives were in power this same behavior will looks like a despicable shameless tact.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @02:14PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 01 2015, @02:14PM (#257153)

        Twitter is a political platform.

        About as much as HBO.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by linkdude64 on Sunday November 01 2015, @05:54AM

    by linkdude64 (5482) Subscriber Badge on Sunday November 01 2015, @05:54AM (#257105)

    The reality is that social media and internet news outlets are places where the majority of young people get their news, and that is not going to change any time soon. If you, reader, think it's unimportant now, just wait until those young people do things like get out and vote for policies that will affect your retirement (or whatever is left of it.) If you don't want to hear about the corruption, censorship, and shady business practices that are **deliberately and maliciously** following a common trajectory to skew the minds of future voters and members of society in general at the behest of Unknown Actors, YOU are the one who is in need of a reality check, not people who are "angry about Twitter." I care about #Gamergate and what it stands for because I care about the future of my country. Meaning, the freedom of my information and the objectivity of the perspectives of my peers. High quality, verifiable information should be valued regardless of "side," and if you don't care about those topics or think those concerns are "childish," you are the problem.

    So long as the internet is open and free, social media has the potential to be much more effective at denoting the truth than traditional media has been in the past. Traditional news outlets have not been bothered by gadflies for far too long, and they are subject to much more sinister and deliberate bias by the powerful elite. It can't be reconciled that somebody could claim to care about the quality of their information and simultaneously not want to take the opportunity to improve a form of information sharing, the Internet, and therefore social media.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bradley13 on Sunday November 01 2015, @06:57AM

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Sunday November 01 2015, @06:57AM (#257111) Homepage Journal

    One might have supposed that Twitters greatest strength was the speed and ease with which people could communicate their views to the world. They could easily broadcast from a computer, from a smartphone, or even from an old fashioned dumb-phone. Many of the most interesting tweets were those that someone, somewhere would like to suppress.

    Censorship destroys the one, central feature that made Twitter useful.

    Driven by a desire to play schoolyard mom, Twitter wanted to make it's users be nice to each other. Guess what, people aren't nice. Watch any flame war on any forum. Using censorship to enforce niceness, and in some cases, to enforce SJW views, was simply idiotic. Twitter was already having revenue problems. Beginning with the first incident of censorship, it became a walking corpse. Like a ringed tree, it still looks healthy and will take some time to wither, but it is already dead.

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.