e.g. reddit started as a platform for communities, but the success of /r/all made it more a community of communities, at which point some of the more extreme communities became a liability and had to be censored. In contrast, imgur appears to have managed the separation between the two quite well.
It is still unclear what twitter wants to be.
Tough call. Twitter et al are trying to be both; this will backfire bad at some point.
This seems similar to the tired old "not all X" argument that is the first thing to come out in response to obvious generalizations. Please reconsider its use in the future.
> Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech
Notice how "freedom of speech" is referenced as an external concept, not defined by the law? A right is a more general concept than an inherently narrow-scoped legal attempt to support it.
Would you say that a US citizen in North Korea still has an unoppressed right to free speech?
(FWIW, your right to free speech can't be "taken away", by anyone. That's the thing about rights - you have them regardless of whether or not they're being oppressed.)
Whatever effect they have, unless there's something in the constitution or our laws which prevents them from doing it, then they can infringe away.
The constitution recognizes our right to free speech and prevents our government from passing infringing laws (we've made exceptions for public safety - inciting violence or panic for example), but is there something that prevents a company from infringing on your right to free speech?
And even if there was, how exactly is twitter refusing to broadcast your message infringing on your right to speak? You don't have an inherent right to publish messages on twitter.com, correct?
> Would you say that a US citizen in North Korea still has an unoppressed right to free speech?
How is this relevant?
No, there is not. However, not being illegal does not erase something.
> how exactly is twitter refusing to broadcast your message infringing on your right to speak?
Twitter has deliberately set itself up as a platform upon which users speak with each other. Through success, it has become a de facto common. This specific "refusal to broadcast your message" is based solely upon what you are saying. Controlling what others say is, by definition, infringing on free speech.
A US citizen in NK has ended up in NK voluntarily. Therefore under a misguided  theory of contracts-above-all, they have voluntarily chosen not to exercise free speech and thus their right is not being infringed!
 As computer scientists, we're well aware that layered complexity inevitably creates contradictions. Any analysis of rights must therefore be in terms of overall qualitative behavior rather than focused on "primitives" that will be easily usurped.
But they aren't controlling what you say. They just aren't broadcasting it.
You can say hate all you want (within the law). Set up your own web site. Buy a plane and fly a banner over the beach. Go set up in a public place and start talking out loud.
Twitter isn't stopping you from speaking or sharing your ideas. Calling it "infringement" because a commercial entity refuses to broadcast your message is, in my opinion, incorrect.
"I'm not hitting my brother, I'm just flailing my arms and walking forward."
Their voluntarily-created situation is that they are broadcasting what you say. By setting up an ultimatum that if you say something they do not like they will no longer transmit what you say, they are forming a control. This obviously isn't absolute control , it is limited by how much you rely on Twitter.
I personally am not reliant on Twitter, but many people are and that is what we are discussing. Your argument is deliberately eschewing this concept of reliance, essentially attempting to justify all emergent behavior as implicitly moral so long as the primitives have been followed.
As I said, this is a dead end. Otherwise we would not even need a legal system because the laws of physics would suffice.
> You can say hate all you want (within the law). Set up your own web site. Buy a plane and fly a banner over the beach. Go set up in a public place and start talking out loud.
Other avenues of speech do not justify controls on a particular one. If this were true, the government controlling what you could say on the Internet wouldn't be an infringement, because you still had other outlets.
In another comment, you allude to your ISP restricting what you can publish online as wrong. How exactly does this differ from Twitter, besides being a different OSI layer?
 Although there is actually no such thing. Even government is limited to post-facto punishment, and only if they can catch you.
And I believe I am doing that rightfully so. I don't think reliance is relevant. Anyone who relied on twitter did so knowing that twitter can revoke their platform at any time from any user without cause. It's in the TOS.
> If this were true, the government controlling what you could say on the Internet wouldn't be an infringement, because you still had other outlets.
This is absolutely correct. The only reason the government can not do this is the first amendment.
But if that did not exist, then the government somehow stepping in and preventing you from speaking would be just as morally wrong (in my opinion) as twitter somehow stepping in and preventing you from speaking (which I would consider fairly morally wrong, but I don't think this is what twitter is doing).
And in the same vein, twitter refusing to broadcast your speech is as morally wrong (in my opinion) as the government refusing to post it on one of their web sites, if they were publishing broadcasted messages of others (which I would not consider morally wrong, assuming the first amendment did not exist).
I don't think prevention of free speech by a government should be conflated with refusal to broadcast speech by a commercial entity. If the public wants a forum to share any speech they want to share, they are free to set one up.
> In another comment, you allude to your ISP restricting what you can publish online as wrong. How exactly does this differ from Twitter, besides being a different OSI layer?
I didn't say I thought an ISP removing my connection is wrong, I said I thought twitter petitioning them to do so because twitter disagreed with my speech and wanted it removed from places twitter does not control is wrong.
By your same reasoning, the government could claim ownership of the atmosphere and be justified in restricting literal speech.
Fundamentally, we're currently building a society where the commons is privately controlled. Rejecting the analysis of freedom of speech for this society implies one does not actually value the concept.
I don't follow.
> Fundamentally, we're currently building a society where the commons is privately controlled.
We're building that society by choice; if we don't fully agree with the ramifications of it, we should build it differently.
And by the way, all society building is about compromise. It seems most people are happy with the compromise that the commons should be privately controlled (at least online) if it gives them the convenience they are looking for. The vocal opposition appears to be a minority.
> Rejecting the analysis of freedom of speech for this society implies one does not actually value the concept.
I haven't rejected any analysis. I'm stating my opinion on the matter. You are free to disagree, but I would appreciate if you did it honestly (and not by putting words into my mouth).
> I haven't rejected any analysis
You have repeatedly rejected applying the concept of "freedom of speech" to analyze the community of twitter users. Deprecating this widely-known general quality obscures the phenomenon as if it were something novel.
> We're building that society by choice; if we don't fully agree with the ramifications of it, we should build it differently.
Yes. Being able to express thoughts like "centralized platforms destroy freedom of speech" facilitates deciding and doing so.
> It seems most people are happy with the compromise that the commons should be privately controlled (at least online) if it gives them the convenience they are looking for
Actually most people just assume there should be someone telling them what to do, and then make up for their disempowerment by mobbing together against some minority. The entire point of rights is to protect the minority.
If rights are not for protecting minorities, then they have no point - the majority is safe by construction. There's no way that speech celebrating July 4th would ever be curtailed in contemporary society.
But as a hypothetical it doesn't really do much for this discussion.
Rights may help protect minorities, but I would not consider that to be their point. That's like saying rights were created to solve that particular problem.
Rights exist, and agreeing on what they are protects whomever is having them infringed upon, minority or not.
For example, if two strong people wanted to kill ten weak people, rights protect the majority. If the ten wanted to kill the two, rights protect the minority.
It may be the case that the rights of minorities are infringed upon more often, but in general rights are blind to numbers.
Nobody is arguing it's illegal, or they should be punished by the government (no one sensible anyway, if we're going to pick the worst arguments / representatives from the different sides of the issue, it's going to be a long day. Also, don't argue with those people). People are just arguing about free speech violations as a philosophical idea.
Further, given the influence corporations wield, particularly in the dissemination of information, this is an important discussion to have. At the risk of being a super nerd, look at the setting for the tabletop RPG Shadowrun to get some idea of a plausible (though extreme) outcome for corporations in the US (ignore the trolls and magic, unless you're into that). I tend to err towards more freedom, and letting Twitter do what they want, but that doesn't mean the implications of their actions shouldn't be discussed.
edit I can't reply to the message below, so I'll do it here. It sounds like we're probably pretty closely aligned philosophically (I think they can do what they want but people should be able to see what they're doing to better decide if they're on board). My issue was with your original comment that appeared to mix the legal with the moral. Beyond that, we're cool :)
I don't think so. I focused on the legal side because I thought others were too, but that doesn't mean I'm confused.
The comments in this thread basically said "twitter is infringing on my right to free speech".
I don't believe that's the case, morally or otherwise.
I think if twitter came to my house and held their hand over my mouth, or put up barriers to stop people from coming within earshot of me, or petitioning my ISP to take away my network connection so I can't post my opinions anywhere, then morally that's wrong.
But twitter refusing to let me post on their site? I don't think that's morally wrong at all.
If you publish a newsletter for your family, is it morally wrong to exclude what I want to tell your family from it? What if it's for your school? What if it's for the whole country?
Until twitter (or any non-governmental entity) is bought and owned by the public, it has no moral obligation to give every single person air time who wants it (in my opinion).
Legally, of course not, because as has been pointed out very clearly in this thread, "freedom of speech" != "the first amendment"
You don't have an inherent right to publish messages on twitter.com, correct?
Maybe we should do something about that. Large social networks like Twitter, Facebook, etc. are very powerful in that they control a huge amount of public discourse. We live online nowadays.
IMO, they should either drop the pretense and assume editorial control (and be held responsible for the words of every single user), or remain hands off and do what the law requires, rather than this wishy-washy stack of double standards.
...With the one exception of what we're talking about here. Banning political commentators for words that are barely offensive while doing nothing about terrorist propaganda is reprehensible
I think this is a false dichotomy.
You tell me when I can operate a segregated lunch counter or refuse to bake a gay wedding cake and I'll consider your argument to have a tiny bit of merit. That ship has long sailed.
And if Twitter and company think they can continue to sh*t on roughly half the nation's population without nasty consequences, they are in for a rude surprise in due course.
(Very roughly half the US population is on "the right", half on the left. If you add "the middle", there are more on the right than on the left.)
As I understand it, Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned for encouraging his supporters to troll / harass stars of the new Ghostbusters movie (being the final straw of many previous warnings). No surprise there then, right? There certainly have been people permanently banned that are not right wing (Azealia Banks is probably the most famous example), so at the present, I'm skeptical that political orientation has much to do with it.
The possibility that harassment is being used as a smokescreen for banning voices on the right ought to be considered, and very possibly be worth investigating if you care anything about the polity's modern public commons. Nothing good will come from trying to exclude half the nation.
Twitter decided (roughly speaking) that the PR fallout from a high-profile Ghostbusters star quitting Twitter over harassment was worse than the PR provoked by banning a Breitbart columnist, who had a reputation for being a bit of a troll. There is nothing that prevents Twitter from making this decision. There is nothing preventing those that disagree with this decision from starting their own social network.
I'm not sure how you are so certain that the official story is wrong. Have you considered the other possibility -- that some trolls are trying to use a political position as a smokescreen for justifying harassment? Have you considered that probably a big part of the equation is that a high profile Ghostbusters star quitting Twitter was quite a big story, and Twitter -- who if you recall has a reputation for harboring bullies -- needed to respond?
Really, only Twitter knows the full details, and that's fine. It's their network. But I do know that most major conservative figures that have Twitter accounts have not had their accounts suspended, and some people have been suspended who are not conservative. So I'm very skeptical that the Official Story "is of course wrong" without actual evidence, not conjecture.
Yes, conservatives are roughly half the nation. But there are many varieties of conservatives. For a start, I would venture that many, if not most, conservatives (or liberals or moderates or whatever) would not approve of trolling, bullying, and harassment. So be careful with that assertion.
BZZZT: you're flatly, totally wrong about this in the US, please re-read my opening post in the sub-thread. Not much point in responding to the rest of your points when you get something so basic, and specifically cited, so wrong.
That said, I don't have a strong stance either way on this particular issue.
The problem with censorship is its function, not its form.
Here's a quick summary of Supreme Court hate speech cases: http://civilliberty.about.com/od/freespeech/tp/Hate-Speech-C...
Social media isn't about, and has never been about, freedom of expression, as much as sometimes we seem to think it is. It's about saying whatever you need to to get scale, and then suppressing dissident communities that might cost you ad revenue or you personally find distasteful once you have the power and authority to do so. It's a cultural appropriation of a hacker ethos for the sake of a business purpose.
As for this action, very few things enrage me as much as Wahhabism and Islamic extremism; in fact, sometimes I struggle with the cognitive desire to write off Islam and the Muslim world as a whole because of ISIL and its followers.
However, I don't believe that this idea makes much sense. You cannot kill a meme by driving it off your platform; religious zealots have traditionally faced much worse persecution than being banned from a service. They will spring up again in places harder to detect, with tools that strengthen their communities. Their enclaves will no longer coexist alongside peaceful messages; they will be harbored entirely within their own safe spaces, echo chambers that strengthen their hatred in their isolation. Instead of a potential ISIL sympathizer seeing ISIL messages alongside trending topics against extremism and terrorism, they will spend time on extremist forums in which there is no dissenting opinion. They will not see pictures of people lamenting the death, they will have communities where this death is entirely praised. Instead of seeing football scores or other young people facing their same problems that may have differing religious opinions, they will find more people willing to indoctrinate them when exploring whether or not they find meaning in Islamic extremism.
Twitter may think they are taking the oxygen out of the atmosphere by banning them, but in reality they are simply shifting the fire to someplace where it can burn hotter.
You've missed the sub-text surrounding this. This is not about Twitter taking oxygen away from Islamic Extremists.
This article is a public relations response to deflect recent accusations that for political reasons Twitter is banning alt-right figures it doesn't like (e.g. Milo Yiannopoulos), but aren't banning Islamic extremists who call for and say far worse things.
Those accusations have started to gain traction outside alt-right circles recently (to Twitter's detriment) hence the need to come out with news saying how many hundreds of thousands of extremist accounts they've also banned, and how they've been doing this for months.
I'd be surprised if the majority of these bans were the result of any sort of internal campaign designed to rid Twitter of Islamic extremism, as opposed to regular people just complaining about abusive/offensive accounts that also happen to involve Islamic extremists.
A forum I kept tabs on for years adopted some of the former views (European style socialism) around the 2008 election. The admin was visited by the FBI and decided that keeping the forum up wasn't worth being hassled by the government. Violence was never promoted or glorified.
Martin Luther King was considered a communist threat, so much so that the FBI sent him a letter suggesting he take drastic measures (see: suicide) lest they out him as an adulterer. 
Occupy Wall St was heavily surveilled as a threat. The FBI worried that it was a front for a violent revolution. 
Centralization of discussion allows quick suppression of dissenting opinion.
It was, that was what Soros was pushing for when he funded it in part.
Real credit goes to the CIA.
Mind you, there are other ways (not available to anyone with access to the Twitter API) to plot terrorist social graphs.
Those who share or are confronted with terrorist propaganda on social networks are not all terrorists. There is a lot of noise. Forcing the terrorists/propagandists underground, separates the wheat from the chaff. Terrorist propagandists know the value of social networks. They do not use them to plot attacks (at least the smarter ones), they solely use them to brainwash naive youth and recruit them for their cause. I feel Twitter is obligated to combat this. Having a lot of users is no excuse for manual and automatic suspension of people sharing dangerous materials.
I do agree that there is a slippery slope: Do we also suspend those who share information and videos from the war front in Syria? Or only those sharing infographics on poisons or glorification of the Paris attacks? Is blocking terrorist propaganda even censorship or just common sense (criminal negligence to keep it up)?
The constant bombardment of war front posts in your timeline is definitely riling up people to go fight a war that is not theirs. Can we solve this problem, while largely keeping free speech intact, or is free speech always a binary issue?
Also compare Twitter with the older ISP's. You'd have a hard time hosting your own site with terrorist propaganda, while nowadays these social networks give you an easy platform to reach many people.
> The constant bombardment of war front posts in your timeline is definitely riling up people to go fight a war that is not theirs.
Are you talking about my twitter timeline in specific? Fight a battle that is not who's? Mine? New Yorkers? Americans? Westerners? Freedom lovers? Christians? Muslems? Jews? Who am I riling up? Anyone who reads my posts? Are you riled up? Please think carefully before volunteering for overseas duty. Perhaps I need a disclaimer?
It is. You just need to be particularly ruthless and employ gulags and other soviet union style tactics.
I think Ted Nugent said it clearly when he said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "We need to give these people a public platform so we can keep tabs on them. I want to know what these crazy people are thinking and planning."
I think this should be the same thing. If we're all about free speech, that includes speech we also might not like so much. It also allows us to keep tabs on these people and who they're connected to (who's behind the accounts as well as who follows them) so we can better mitigate the threats they're posing.
Censoring them does nothing but push them back into the shadows where their communications then become encrypted, unavailable and out of the public eye.
The question of who decides what gets culled is a different and far more nuanced question to answer - but I for one am glad that these accounts are getting closed down.
We're not going to have any success fighting terrorists if we assume that they're stupid. You think ISIS is using Twitter DMs to plot terrorist attacks or something? They've successfully executed a number of attacks worldwide under the noses of some pretty smart and dedicated people, so I'm pretty sure they've already figured out slightly more secure communication channels. It's not like they'll stumble onto PGP and Tor just because they got kicked off of Twitter.
> I want to know what these crazy people are thinking and planning
We already know what they're planning: a fundamentalist Islamic global caliphate. Again, they are not stupid enough to tell us anything more useful than that on Twitter.
> It also allows us to keep tabs on these people and who they're connected to
They're using Twitter to build those connections in the first place. This is about their curbing their ability to broadcast and recruit. You can't gain mindshare from a secret, encrypted chatroom.
> If we're all about free speech, that includes speech we also might not like so much.
The right to free speech does not confer the additional right to airdrop political pamphlets all over New York City, nor the right to stand on someone else's front stoop and scream at passersby, nor, indeed, the right to use the Internet website Twitter dot com to broadcast ideas.
I seriously can't tell if this is sarcasm or not. People broadcast ideas all day on twitter. Did you miss the dumpster fire that was #gamergate? What about the white supremacists who use it as a platform, or people who advocate "rape culture" or black lives matter who advocate violence against police? I can find ALL of these and more - yet we choose to single out one religious ideology we don't like and censor the fuck out of it?
Yeah, in a country with "free speech" that makes perfect sense.
> ...we choose to single out one religious ideology we don't like and censor the fuck out of it?
"We" didn't single out anybody, Twitter did, and they can do that because they own the platform and have absolute authority over who can use it.
And if you think about it, in 1960s and prior, when civil movement wasnt the main stream, I bet twitter will ban Martin Lurther King's account as well.
Would Civil Rights ever have worked with censorship? What about LGBQ?
otoh, by using twitter, they get a free recruitment and propaganda platform. the question becomes: is that more valuable to them than the publicly leaked information is to us. from that perspective, the answer doesn't seem obvious, at least to me.
- White supremacists groups (of which there are many)
- Black panther party
- Other Jihadi groups
- Other "nefarious" people who advocate "rape culture", misogyny, and sexism
- Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs who are known drug dealers, murderers and rapists
All of these already exist on Twitter, yet somehow ISIS accounts are singled out and shut down? If you want "free speech" it can't be done to one group whose message you don't agree with, but then leave other groups who are just as bad free to operate without any penalty.
If you shut one down, you should be shutting them all down.
In the US the government does not need to crack down on free expression the way the government in China or Singapore does, because American corporations happily apply censorship without any legal requirement to do so.
This is why some stories are essentially missing from our newspapers and news broadcasts, etc.
I highly recommend the documentary "Manufacturing Consent" which features a lot of Chomsky's ideas on this kind of thing.
All I will say is: stay away from these sorts of services if you value your mental health.
I am pretty convinced this has a lot to do with the trend towards extreme polarization of politics for example. The echo chamber allows both sides to entrench further, while both fully believe that the majority of people believe as they do.
Regarding social medias influence, while it has been hyped up massively, I do believe it is a significant force. Even if just for the fact that the media class use it extensively. I expect it has an impact on their reporting.
It should be done by the government, checked by the legal system and based upon open and clear legislation.
This is why we need the open web and why monopoly social media like Twitter and Facebook are so dangerous.
There's not been a good history with that.
Took long enough - that account's been spewing hate since at least last April. It's almost like their priorities are backwards...
The British authorities just didn't have much tools for it, which sounds funny when they are otherwise enforcing various super-injunctions very greedily.
It shouldn't take a national/law enforcement influence for a company to not give platform to literal terrorists once brought to their attention.
Meanwhile, saying something not particularly nice is grounds for immediate suspension. Kind of screwed up that they take mean words (regardless of their content) more seriously than terrorism, you know?
Yes, Twitter is a non-governmental entity and has the legal right to do whatever it wishes. But that does not make their decision any less wrong.
It also does not matter how incendiary the accounts were. You may be burning Mein Kampf instead of On Liberty, but you're still burning books.
Edit: Changed "private" to "non-governmental" to prevent confusion.
For one, because said corporations carry on like it is. As an example, Twitter pretends it's responsible for the Arab Spring. Reddit up until very recently was loudly and repeatedly touted by its founders as a platform for free speech.
You can hardly blame the users for getting the impression that the marketing is making for them!
So if you get banned on Twitter just go to another site.
Meanwhile, you've lost your social network and get to start over again from square one. This is not a minor annoyance.
That constitutes false advertising at worse. This doesn't come under censorship in any way.
>Meanwhile, you've lost your social network and get to start over again from square one. This is not a minor annoyance.
And so a website owner is obliged to give you free reign on their site? Sorry if I don't agree but the fact of the matter is that leaning on a walled garden to keep your friends is IMO a bad idea. I've been hit by the ban hammer more than once on sites like Twitter and I've learned it's best to keep your friends on your contact list on the old phone. Yes, it's not as hip or cool but luckily many contact apps have social media fields.
War has been referred to as "politics with guns".
How petty to try to constrain the free speech of vocal adversaries. The US has invested billions trying to make the world hate Muslims and it's clearly not working well enough.
I'd like our president to vocally criticize Twitter for this move and request that free expression be restored.
That said, I would be perfectly fine with ISIS be allowed to hand out flyers around town. It's their right.
I would. In fact, we have something similar already: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Broadcasting_Network
(this is one reason why we avoid building/using centralized trash)