On the censor ship: Twitter policy, North Korea threat, Europe and ACTA, Hawaii Web-surfing bill

Let’s take a trip on the censor ship.

Twitter leads the way. To censorship, or transparency about censorship? After the San Francisco company announced yesterday that it will censor tweets on a case-by-case, country-by-country basis, disappointed tweets and reactions abound. After all, Twitter has had a reputation as the social network that gives the most leeway to its users, such as allowing them to use pseudonyms, for example; CEO Dick Costolo once proclaimed Twitter as “the free speech wing of the free speech party”; the company fought a government gag order in order to inform those with WikiLeaks ties that the U.S. government had subpoenaed their information. (See As U.S. pursues WikiLeaks, must Twitter turn over user data?)

But Twitter is a business. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian York writes, “Twitter is not above the law. … Just about every company hosting user-generated content has, at one point or another, gotten an order or government request to take down content.” In its blog post/announcement, Twitter says that as it expands its new policy is simply about staying within the limits of different countries’ laws, and says “we have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.” Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray told Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing that “this is not a change in policy.” In addition, he shot down rumors that the policy has anything to do with the Saudi prince’s $300 million investment in Twitter, which was announced last month. (See Quoted: Twitter’s royal investor has faith.) Meanwhile, Dave Copeland writes for ReadWriteWeb that by allowing users to change their country settings, Twitter is actually providing them with a workaround.

• In North Korea, using mobile phones during the 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong-il could be classified as a war crime, according to the Telegraph. The crackdown on mobile-phone use is apparently part of an effort to stabilize the isolated country and prevent defections after the death of the longtime dictator last month. The Telegraph says the Workers’ Party seems to be afraid that North Koreans will be influenced by seeing coverage, via mobile phone, of other uprisings around the world.

• We head over to Europe, where Polish politicians joined the protests over ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, by donning Guy Fawkes — the British man who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, was executed hundreds of years ago and who has become a symbol of protest — masks. Poland and other EU members yesterday signed on to the international agreement, which aims to standardize copyright rules. Much like critics of the United States anti-piracy laws SOPA and PIPA, opponents of ACTA say it could lead to censorship.

• And finally, back to Hawaii, where support seems to be fading for a bill that would track Web surfing. Obviously, not only would tracking violate privacy, it would put Hawaii on a slippery slope to censorship. We again point to CNet, which reports that the bill seemed to stem from a website that attacked Rep. Kim Pyne, a Republican who now says “we just want the ability for law enforcement to be able to capture the activities of crime.” The lead sponsor of the bill, HB 2288, is Democratic Rep. John Mizuno. The proposed bill would require Internet service providers to track users’ Web activity and retain that data for two years.


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  • dermbuilder

    Here in Wisconsin we are about to throw out of office a Republican Governor who despises worker’s rights. It sounds like the Hawaiians need to do the same with one of their Democratic legislators.