Saturday, August 20, 2016

Speech is Free; Tweets Aren't reports:

Last week, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Twitter that accused the company of supporting Islamic State by allowing it to sign up for and use Twitter accounts. The judge agreed with Twitter that the company cannot be held liable because federal law protects service providers that merely offer platforms for speech, without creating the speech itself. At the same time, Twitter stressed that it was working to combat violent extremism on its service.
I think the suspensions are quite possibly a mistake. I'm not talking about any value judgments of the accounts that were deleted (although I think there's a hell of a lot of value in letting terrorists identify themselves). I think it was possibly a legal mistake. I think a savvy prosecuting attorney could argue in future cases that Twitter is not protected by federal law because it does not "merely offer platforms for speech without creating the speech itself." The reason is that Twitter is now exercising editorial discretion. Twitter picks and chooses the messages that are persistent, and those that are banned. In so doing, it creates an overall editorial message that could be regarded as original speech.

When you select what to print,
you also generate a new original message

I don't think Twitter can successfully argue that this is done merely in cases of terrorism and violent extremism. At least, in order to do so they have to resort to unique and shifting interpretations of "violent" and "extremism". By many reports, Twitter has banned or "shadow-banned" users for holding particular political opinions, notably peaceable conservative ones. And the abuse policies they cite are so vague that they could be paraphrased as "we'll ban you when we feel like it."

That could be a problem for them. This time, a judge bought the argument that Twitter is merely a platform for free speech. Next time they may not be so lucky.

I'll also hold you accountable if you act on it.

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