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.
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.