Twitter’s promise to remain uncensored subject to the whims of foreign governments

By Maria Torres

This past Thursday, Twitter announced that it would now “reactively withhold content from users in a specific country” in accordance with local laws. This new strategy is not the same as completely removing tweets from the site. Instead, as Danny Sullivan explains, “… if Twitter gets a request to remove content under the laws of another country, it can react to remove that content just for people in those particular countries.”

Sullivan notes in the Marketing Land article that, in the past, Twitter has removed (and will continue to remove) tweets that are “illegal” in the Twitter-verse in order to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Although this may seem like an act of censorship, it is outlined in Twitter’s policies that users who infringe on copyright are subject to the removal of those tweets that do just that. (The Chilling Effects site provides examples of tweets that have been removed for violation of copyright.)

No matter how clear Twitter is in explaining its motives, there are still users who believe their rights are being limited. Some see the censorship of tweets in certain countries as potentially dangerous. Since so many people relied on tweets during the uprisings in 2011, the general fear is that governments that ban tweeting about protests might cause Twitter users to miss out on important details about possible conflicts.

Is Twitter really so evil, even if it is not actually removing the censored content? Do these governments that do not share our beliefs of freedom of expression pose any long-term issues for the future of Twitter and any of its social-networking counterparts? Should U.S. companies stop globalizing themselves just because the countries they want to enter fail to agree with their own values?

Keep in mind that Google has been doing a similar censorship of search results for years now. What makes Twitter any different?

[Mediawire story]


Occupy Oakland Mass Arrest

Daniel Sullivan

This weekend hundreds of people in an Occupy Oakland protest were arrested while attempting to occupy a former convention center. Among those arrested were six reporters; one of which had credentials from the Oakland Police Department. Another journalist arrested in the Oakland mass arrest this weekend was Mother Jones’s Gavin Aronsen. Aronsen wrote a first hand account of his arrest as he reports from the Mother Jones website:

Oakland police thwarted the efforts, arresting more than 400 people in the process, primarily during a mass nighttime arrest outside a downtown YMCA. That number included at least six journalists, myself included, in direct violation of OPD media relations policy that states “media shall never be targeted for dispersal or enforcement action because of their status.”

Aronsen recounts several attempts to notify the police that he was merely a journalist. However, his struggle was in vein as it became clear that he was being caught in the 400 person net that the Oakland Police Department had cast around the crowd to catch and throw in jail. Occupiers and Aronsen alike told tales of police firing tear gas, beanbag and flash bang grenades in what appeared to be an over-reaction on their behalf. Certainley protesters and New York, Philly, Denver, and Los Angeles believed so as they rallied on Sunday night in support of those arrested in Oakland. Similar instances of police and occupiers tension resulted in Washington Square Park, yet on a smaller magnitude where 200 protested but only twelve were arrested.

The way police are depicted in news stories such as the one from Aronsen in Oakland portray them as a brute force that is going on unnecessary power trips. Is this the case? Or is this an example of the media only highlighting on the bad behavior of the police department and overlooking the occupiers’ actions to provoke such reactions by the police?


Paywall not keeping readers from New York Times website


The online readership of The New York Times has remained steady since the implementation of a paywall on the publication’s website last March. When the announcement of the paywall was made, it was a new approach to online readership, and many critics were skeptical as to whether asking readers to pay for online content would work. *cough* Jimmy Wales. *cough* Arianna Huffington. Looks like they might be eating their words.

This is further fodder for the fire of selling news-for-profit, an obvious idea that was employed for over 150 years until the Great Mysterious Internet Monster convinced journalism companies to give away, or even pay for, their product to get in the hands of the consumer. Until the past two or three years, no journalism company could hold a candle to The Monster, but in the depths of Manhattan, a sword has been forged in the form of the paywall. Sure the sword looked good on paper, but the question was, “Does this thing work?”

The answer isn’t “yes” yet, but now that The New York Times has shown readers are willing to pay for quality, it is leaning more in that direction. We are seeing other advances in institutions accepting the notion of a paywall. The 2nd Paywall Strategies conference is being held next month in London to discuss digital product development, pricing models for online content, and monetizing customers not content.

Are y’all comfortable with the idea of a paywall, or is there a better way to solve the dot-com bust of journalism?