Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Twitter refuses US order to disclose owner of anti-Trump account (reuters.com)
831 points by anigbrowl on Apr 6, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 493 comments




This is truly terrifying. The fact that the US government will pursue this kind of action, potentially exposing and punishing criticizers of the government -- seems like this is how dictatorships/autocracy/totalitarianism start.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." If we believe in the free America, this should be what we should all fight for, if we want to keep America for the reason it became great in the first place.


>"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." If we believe in the free America, this should be what we should all fight for, if we want to keep America for the reason it became great in the first place.

We're talking about the same Twitter that shut down Milo Yiannopolis' account because Twitter didn't like what he was saying?


There's an incredibly important difference between a corporation exercising its power to control speech on its platform and the US Federal Government exercising powers not granted to it by the laws of the United States to control speech in general.


Two things are are wrong with your statement:

1.) The government has made no request to impede upon the speech of the account owner, nor has the gov asked to shut it down the account. The gov asked for the account holder identity because they suspect (with reason) that someone is impersonating a federal agent through the account.

2.) Twitter invoked "free speech" to deny a reasonable request from the government. Right or not, I am mocking Twitter for acting like "champion of free speech" on one hand and then shutting down what they deem as "hate speech" (which the ACLU explicitly protects as free speech) on the other hand. Twitter can reinstate Milo's account at any time, yet they don't.

3.) We have just as much evidence to believe that the account holder is a fake federal employee as we do to believe they are real.


1a) You don't have to impede speech to be violating the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that anonymity is protected under the First Amendment. https://www.eff.org/issues/anonymity

1b) Additionally, "impersonating a federal agent" is a flimsy reason to violate the First Amendment, especially when the only harm they're causing is making the government look bad. Typically "impersonating a federal agent" is used as a charge when the suspect has committed another crime while impersonating someone. The only crime here is making Trump look bad.

2) Get out of here with your false equivalency bs. Equating the government making a (likely) unconstitutional request to reveal the identity of a critic's Twitter account to Milo getting banned from Twitter for harassment is stupid. Hate speech is protected from the government, not from Twitter trying to create a safe platform for its users.

3) I thought everyone was innocent until proven guilty? The government has the burden of proof here, not some rando on Twitter.


On 2) parent is not equating the goverment's position on this case to Twitter's positions on Milo. He is equating Twitter's position on this case to Twitter's position on Milo's case, and noting that there is indeed a double-standard. Twitter's message seems to be: Speech must be free - but only if that speech is for left-wing causes.


Milo was not banned for "free speech". He was banned because he was harassing people, which he very much was doing. If you want to say Twitter was banning people solely for their beliefs, find a better example.

Additionally, protecting your speech from the government is not the same as giving you a platform on which to speak. Twitter protected their users under the Obama administration as well, they were not one of the tech companies that shared data with the NSA according to the Snowden leaks.


> He was banned because he was harassing people

No he wasn't. Twitter claimed he incited other people to harass LJ.

You are also correct that, very often, the freedoms granted to Americans concern the ability of government, specifically, to impede; Hence it is correct that twitter would act differently when the government involves itself.


His account was suspended many times. It wasn't just banned out of nowhere.

Twitter hasn't released information surrounding the ban. Just a brief, very general, statement. Makes sense to me they don't want to spread news that could be considered libel/slander.

If they say "Milo did this, this is why he was banned" now it's open to opinion. "Did this" is an opinion, and now suddenly Twitter says an individual did something.

Twitter gains nothing by clarifying (in the eyes of their lawyers) so they didn't. Why get sued over this?


> It wasn't just banned out of nowhere

This doesn't have much to do with my point - The final ban was based on LJ.

If you're going to take the "Descartes's Demon" defence, it works both ways:

We don't know if twitter banned Milo for other reasons, but we also don't know if "He was banned because he was harassing people" by the same measure.


> We don't know if twitter banned Milo for other reasons, but we also don't know if "He was banned because he was harassing people" by the same measure.

This is the exact point I'm trying to make. It doesn't matter why he was banned, Twitter can ban anyone.

As long as they didn't ban him because he was a part of a protected group, it's kosher.


> This is the exact point I'm trying to make

My original point simply points out Milo was not banned for personally harassing anyone, nothing else.


Then what are you trying to discuss?


>> He was banned because he was harassing people

> No he wasn't. Twitter claimed he incited other people to harass LJ.


Milo wasn't harassing anybody, except by the broadest and most over-sensitive possible interpretation of the already diluted word 'harassment'. Milo himself never did anything to anybody other than toss out singular, one-off quips about people. But people like to hold those with many followers responsible for what their followers say. While it's emotionally tempting to do so, it's also stupid, unworkable, and ultimately always serves as the go-to excuse to ban someone with the wrong views.


Twitter can ban anyone for anything they want.


And anyone can point out their hypocrisy.


It isn't hypocritical to choose who you want on your platform. Twitter has no obligation to be some neutral platform. They have never claimed this and have never tried to do this.


At Twitter's scale, they do have an obligation to be a neutral platform. They own the modern digital "town square". Things have changed since the old days.

Businesses have obligations beyond just barely staying within the law. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's ethical.


A very astute observation, sir! And what a novel line of reasoning, I might add.


To my knowledge, no account was ever banned for critizing the Obama administration.


Several people were taken by the police for social/twitter threats against the (then Obama) President and such -- of the kind that we see 100 per day against Trump.


Do you have a reference for that? I highly doubt the rate of twitter threat investigations has changed between administrations.


Threatening POTUS is always an offence, and those law enforcement investigations have been happening for years under all presidents, under both parties.


> 43. The CBP Summons states that Twitter is “required” to “produce[] for inspection” “[a]ll records regarding the [T]witter account @ALT_USCIS to include, User names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses.”

That doesn't really sound like they politely asked for it.

No one's making the argument that twitter is some bastion of free speech, but it seems reasonable to respect them for not complying to government strongarm tactics to criminalize their own users. The law is well on twitter's side on this one.

Comparing this to selectively banning trolls from their own business is just a false equivalence.


> That doesn't really sound like they politely asked for it.

How is it impolite? It's a legal request. Legal requests are always objective and to the point. You should argue objective facts and not whine because "its not polite enough"

>No one's making the argument that twitter is some bastion of free speech, but it seems reasonable to respect them for not complying to government strongarm tactics to criminalize their own users. The law is well on twitter's side on this one.

The government has not criminalizing anything. The account is deriving its authority from the fact that owner claims to be federal agent. The law is not on twitter's side. If the government suspects the impersonating of a federal agent they have the right to investigate.

If you say "Trust me I'm a federal agent." the government can ask for your identity. If someone says "trust me I'm a cop" you have the right to ask for their name and badge number.

The difference is that the account is claiming to be a federal agent. If the account were for example just an anonymous reporter who did not claim to be employed by the government, the government could not force twitter to reveal the identity.

>Comparing this to selectively banning trolls from their own business is just a false equivalence.

Twitter is explicitly citing "free speech" as their reason for denying a federal investigation.


> failure to comply with this summons will render you liable to proceedings in a U.S. District Court to enforce compliance with this summons as well as other sanctions.

It's not a request if you're threatening legal consequences, is it? I'm not "whining that it's not polite enough", it's clearly not a request at all but instead a strongarm tactic by an overreaching government agency.

> Twitter is explicitly citing "free speech" as their reason for denying a federal investigation.

Free speech != businesses can't censor whatever the hell they want from their own user created content. It's surprising to me how often people don't understand this. The comparison is absolutely a false equivalence in this case.

> If you stand up say "Trust me I'm a federal agent." the government can ask for your identity. If someone says "trust me I'm a cop" you have the right to ask for their name and badge number.

Yes, if you're doing something illegal - speaking out against government policy is not, hence Twitter's free speech argument.


In truth, free speech DOES mean business shouldn't censor arbitrarily on their own platform.

Free speech isn't just a quirky law to restrain the government. It's a social virtue which should all try to uphold, everywhere, because it makes our society better.

Free speech is comparable to honesty in this way, as a generalized social virtue.

The law against government censorship is to the principle of free speech as the law against perjury is to the principle of honesty.

Honesty and free speech are universal principles; violating them is often legal but generally not ethical.

This becomes more and more important as our public squares are increasingly moved on to online private platforms. Soon enough almost all communication will be digital, and the corporations will have more censoring power than the government does. At that time, it'll be pretty regretful that all these people have been upholding businesses' "rights" to silence anyone they please for any reason.


Obviously the context of the phrase "free speech" in my responses refers to the first amendment, not the general concept of free speech as a whole.

That said, as someone who has ran online businesses, I still don't agree with you that it's some universal principal that businesses should be held to. I've dealt with trolls of the same ilk as Milo Yiannopoulos, and you know what? When I think about how things went, it would have sucked up a hell of a lot less resources and time of myself, the business, and my other customers if I had simply censored them immediately.


You're saying Twitter isn't obligated by the law about free speech.

I'm saying that free speech is more than a law.

Perhaps you're referring to the first amendment, but I'm making the point that you can't limit this discussion to the first amendment.

And businesses should be held to universal principles, above and beyond the law. We should demand businesses' decisions be ethical, not simply legal.


> You're saying Twitter isn't obligated by the law about free speech.

The concept of freedom of speech is that pure speech is free from government-imposed consequences, but that private parties can and do choose what expressed ideas to support, oppose, reward, and punish. That's the fundamental concept of the marketplace of ideas.

The idea of freedom of speech is not that speech should be free of all consequences.

Now because businesses (especially those that are creations of government, like any that operate as juridical entities distinct from the constituent natural persons) are creatures of government and/or often depend on exercise of government powers, there is an argument for limiting the consequences that they can impose for speech in certain cases, especially when they are in monopolistic roles, and even more especially when that is in regard to key communications media, because those are in effect acts of government by other means.


Even by your (flawed) definition, Twitter has the free speech right to publish or not publish whatever it wants on its own site.


It's troubling that anyone would downvote your comment, and clearly several people have.

Free speech requires more than merely the government allowing it; if the underlying society does not permit it to be exercised, it is effectively defeated.


> Free speech requires more than merely the government allowing it

"Free Speech" in the context of the first amendment deals specifically with the role of government.


Obviously.

Equally obviously, I am referring to the bigger picture. If the government is restrained, but society ostracizes, freedom of speech is effectively useless. The law is the minimum, not the optimum.


> The law is not on twitter's side.

Could you cite the law you're thinking of? Simply claiming to be a federal agent to set the context for a discussion is very different from claiming to be one and then acting under the authority of that pretended identity.


Sure: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/33/931

> Any claimant or representative of a claimant who knowingly and willfully makes a false statement or representation for the purpose of obtaining a benefit or payment under this chapter shall be guilty of a felony...

or alternatively: http://www3.ce9.uscourts.gov/jury-instructions/node/508

The threshold of "obtaining a benefit" or "obtained thing of value" is pretty low. Is a massive Twitter following a benefit? Is positive press coverage or access a benefit or valuable?

Alternatively, this person is a federal employee and they've been actively working against their boss and employer (aka POTUS).

Either way, the outcome isn't good for them.


Your first link is from Title 33, Chapter 18, which is titled "LONGSHORE AND HARBOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION". The words "federal" and "agent" appear nowhere in it, so... I think not. Maybe this is what you're looking for (as referred to in your second link):

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/912

> The threshold of "obtaining a benefit" or "obtained thing of value" is pretty low. Is a massive Twitter following a benefit? Is positive press coverage or access a benefit or valuable?

Absolutely ridiculous. If you want to play these sorts of word games, though, I might point out that this person is not pretending (or not) "to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof". They are not pretending (or not) to act under any authority. Anyone can post whatever they like on Twitter (at Twitter's discretion and according to their TOS).

In other words, it would be illegal to flash a fake badge at someone and then tell them you'll take them to jail if they don't follow you on Twitter, but that's not what this is.

> Alternatively, this person is a federal employee and they've been actively working against their boss and employer (aka POTUS).

On their own time and using their own device(s), presumably. Is this illegal?


Oops, you're right on the first link. Sorry about that.

> On their own time and using their own device(s), presumably. Is this illegal?

Since they're discussing official matters, it's probably illegal. Federal employees are always covered by rules concerning their engagement with the press and public communications.

Just like if you spoke on behalf of your company and/or leaked internal information, they could definitely sue you and potentially get you arrested (depending on the details). When your employer are the Feds, they can usually skip the "sue you" step.


Right now, the account includes this in its "about" text:

> Not the views of DHS or USCIS

Whether or not that's always been there, I think it's probably always been true for this account. It's somebody saying "I work at <agency>, and here are some opinions and publicly available information". So really all they're guilty of is being publicly negative about their employer. That's not illegal for employees of corporations, and I'd be really surprised if it was illegal for employees of the government (but I haven't looked into it).

Of course, corporations and the government might like to fire employees who do this, and they'd be within their rights to do so (I think, in general) but if said employees are anonymous then they don't know who to fire, and if speaking freely is perfectly legal then they have no grounds to compel Twitter (or whoever) to unmask the account.


In most roles of federal law enforcement and/or the intelligence community, you aren't allowed to speak to the press or make public statements without express consent of your communications team. You don't get to "talk negatively about your employer" and you sign agreements to that effect going in.

And it doesn't take sharing classified information to get in trouble. Pointing someone to public information validates them as accurate - including whatever conjecture included - and counts.

I spent time in the intelligence community. Your opinion and my opinion don't matter.. only the law, the agreements in place, and the tenacity of those who choose to enforce them and to what degree.


> only the law, the agreements in place

These are the only things I'm interested in. My personal opinions aside, I'm genuinely curious whether the government has a legitimate legal leg to stand on here. The reason I'm still replying is that none of those you've suggested have been terribly convincing.

Whether anonymous political speech by someone claiming to be an employee of the federal government but not acting in an official capacity is or is not a violation of the Hatch Act or any other applicable law (dubious) or any agreement they may have signed as a condition of employment is one question. Whether the fact that this individual has claimed anonymously to be a federal employee can compel Twitter to release their personal details on the basis of an assumption that either or both of the aforementioned factors (laws, agreements) will apply to them is another question entirely. While they're anonymous, how would you know which agreement they signed, if any? How would you know whether they are actually a federal employee?

"Tenacity" aside, this seems like the most plausible theory yet, but still a stretch. But I am not a lawyer.

edit: this update is relevant: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/04/07...


1 is bullshit. Anonymity is baked into first amendment protections. The political nature of govt's request is blatant.


>Anonymity is baked into first amendment protections.

Not when you're claiming authority as a federal agent.


Nothing says federal twitter account like "Alt [Emoji] Immigration" and "Not the views of DHS or USCIS" (at bio)


Yeah, nothing says "claiming authority" like explicitly calling yourself "Alt". /s


They have explicitly labeled themselves as 'rouge USCIS agents' and said they are real in multiple tweets.

It's not the same as making a "fake steve jobs" twitter account where everybody knows you're not really steve jobs. They actually claim to be subversive workers within the agency.


> It's not the same as making a "fake steve jobs" twitter account where everybody knows you're not really steve jobs

First, let's dispel the absurdity that "ICE official with a critical Twitter account" == "impersonate a law enforcement officer/agency".

There's no impersonation. Everybody knows that @ALT_* is not an official channel. The entire account namespace was created specifically as a protest mechanism.

Government's claims regarding IMPERSONATION are baseless as a pure and simple matter of fact.

> They actually claim to be subversive workers within the agency.

Could the federal government have cause to fire these employees for their political speech? Perhaps.

Should we, the people, grant the government have right to infringe upon private company's property rights in order to settle petty shop politics? NO.

Government can be as petty an employer as it wants. But this ISN'T impersonation, and we SHOULDN'T sacrifice OUR liberties and property rights for the sake of fucking petty shop politics.

If law enforcement wants to track down and fire people who disagree with the chief executive, they're free to waste my tax dollars doing so. But unless they can show substantive evidence of ACTUAL impersonation, they can conduct their witch hunt without barging into our homes and offices.


So if I say I'm James Mattis and I think Trump is a dork I'm violating the law? Come on, no judge is gonna buy that nonsense. It's a far different to talk smack on twitter under an alt account (an UNVERIFIED account even) than it is to actually say things under the color of law like ordering a contingent of military to fire upon civilians while I'm saying I am James Mattis Sec of Defense. See the difference?


>The gov asked for the account holder identity because they suspect (with reason) that someone is impersonating a federal agent through the account.

I wasn't familiar with this account previously, but I'm not seeing any reason to suspect impersonation of a federal agent. What exactly are you citing here?


Notably, Milo Yiannopolis hasn't been sentenced to "compulsory psychiatric care" by the court system...

https://twitter.com/MoscowTimes/status/849413473813639168

And neither will I be for making this post.


Don't let the worst be the friend of the bad


While this is an important distinction, corporate censorship is a real social problem when the corporations control the platforms most people use to speak.

A circumstance where a single entity controls the conversations of billions is unparalleled, and our practices need to be re-evaluated.


Milo Y had the entire platform of breitbart. Nobody was really silencing the guy, other than his own need to needle people and push limits.


Remember, though, Milo wasn't banned for his views. He was banned for repeatedly violating the ToS.


There have been many right-wing accounts banned that were much better behaved than Milo. Twitter definitely censors based on progressive American sensitivities:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/silence-frogs-why-twitter-censoring...


Is that article some kind of joke? Using flowery academic language to defend what basically amounts to children posting trolling memes that make fun of fat people.

Also, it did not cite a single source backing up your claims. Can you try to be a bit more specific?


There are countless "liberals" who have called for the murder of straight white men on Twitter (as a very simple example see the #KillAllMen hashtag). They weren't banned, despite being against the fabled "terms of service". But if someone criticises a feminist or other "liberal" group, they are likely to get banned.

To pretend there isn't a clear bias by Twitter is just being disingenuous. I say this as someone who very left on most issues, its quite depressing seeing everything descend into authoritarianism.


> But if someone criticises a feminist or other "liberal" group, they are likely to get banned.

Dude, have you been on Twitter? This happens constantly and accounts aren't banned.


No, I've never been on Twitter. I make up all of my opinions on the spot. It's not like Twitter's "Trust and Safety Council" is made up predominantly of "liberals"[1], and their entire purpose is to decide what accounts should be banned and how the process of "keeping people safe" should be done (thus introducing massive bias, especially since many of the members have shown that even disagreements are considered some level of harassment).

Everything is going great.

[1]: https://about.twitter.com/safety/council


Why do you even care? This isn't some kind of liberal conspiracy. It is people who lead a company deciding what they want their platform to be.

If you want a platform of alt-right trolls go on the_donald or 4chan.


> Why do you even care?

I honestly don't care all that much about Twitter. If Twitter wants to run their website into the ground by pandering to a vocal minority, that's their business (I've never liked Twitter anyway and preferred GNU Social et al). It's just a bit frustrating when people go full Orwell and suddenly redefine "harassment" to mean "disagreement" and various other definition changes.

> If you want a platform of alt-right trolls go on the_donald or 4chan.

Ah yes, I don't like a certain group of liberals because they act in an authoritarian way and therefore I'm part of the "alt-right". That makes perfect sense.


> It's just a bit frustrating when people go full Orwell and suddenly redefine "harassment" to mean "disagreement" and various other definition changes.

It's tough. So, at the end of the day, Twitter doesn't want certain content on their platform. Milo was determined to be that content. Twitter didn't say he was harassing people, they were extremely vague about it.

> Ah yes, I don't like a certain group of liberals because they act in an authoritarian way and therefore I'm part of the "alt-right". That makes perfect sense.

I didn't say you were part of the alt-right: just that if you want the kind of stuff that Milo was spewing those are the places for it, not Twitter (by their own decision.)

> GNU Social

It's not like if it has "GNU" in the title it's instantly a completely-free platform.


"But if someone criticises a feminist or other "liberal" group, they are likely to get banned."

For you to say this, you have clearly never been on Twitter.



> I say this as someone who very left on most issues, its quite depressing seeing everything descend into authoritarianism.

I appreciate your even-mindedness. Question: do you honestly not see leftism as naturally decaying into authoritarianism?


There is this weird effect in American politics where each wing considers the other to be the authoritarian one.

The American right loves its military industrial complex, its police crackdowns, its bank bailouts, its manifest destiny, and so on. These are not left wing institutions in creed or membership. You could ask the same question: do you not see rightism (ingroup loyalty, moral purity, respect for authority) as naturally decaying into authoritarianism?


> There is this weird effect in American politics where each wing considers the other to be the authoritarian one.

It is weird, in a way, yes. I think, though, that when you think from each side's point of view, it makes sense that that's the case.

> The American right loves its military industrial complex, its police crackdowns, its bank bailouts, its manifest destiny, and so on. These are not left wing institutions in creed or membership.

I think you are painting with too broad a brush. There is far more nuance in what is considered "the American right" than you imply. Five minutes on the Internet and you can find people who are obviously considered "on the right" who don't agree with any of those things.

> You could ask the same question: do you not see rightism (ingroup loyalty, moral purity, respect for authority) as naturally decaying into authoritarianism?

I would ask you to more clearly define rightism, because those three things are just as prevalent on the left, if not moreso.


> You could ask the same question: do you not see rightism (ingroup loyalty, moral purity, respect for authority) as naturally decaying into authoritarianism?

Respect for authority is _by definition_ authoritarian and is completely separate from the left-right axis. As for loyalty and moral purity those seem more like talking points than actual political views.


Specifically what terms did he violate?

Twitter's only statement is that some of Milo's followers behaved badly. If they followed this rule consistently they'd ban a lot of popular left leaning accounts to.

Instead, left-leaning accounts that directly violate the Terms of Service by doxxing others (Shanley publishing Milo's cell phone number) and advocate for violence (various self-styled 'antifa' accounts) remain up.

Yes, legally you have no right to free speech on a non-government platform. But as a Twitter user - and a left leaning person - I'd rather not have my platform dictate who I can and can't listen to.


The story of Milo and the terms he broke has been widely publicized. He broke those terms, and that is not in question. Other people's behavior has absolutely nothing to do with Milo being banned for his behavior.


You'e new here. Generally on HN, someone asking for a reference is responded to with a reference. If it's not in question - it is BTW - you'll be able to find one.

> Other people's behavior has absolutely nothing to do with Milo being banned for his behavior.

Indeed, it simply calls into question why Twitter seems to ignore the Terms of Service for some users while apply it to other users for the actions of their followers.


> Remember, though, Milo wasn't banned for his views.

Or, he was, and the ToS raised as public justification.


Then why haven't they banned the thousands of other users with more extreme views who avoid breaching the ToS?


Because no one listens to them. There's no point dirtying your hands on people who are screaming into the void.


Or, he did break the ToS, and that was that.

Richard Spencer is still on Twitter, despite being an actual, self identified Nazi.


that selective enforcement happened because of his views


Is it hard work shifting those goalposts so often?


?


No, it didn't.


Not just not granted, rather even, explicitly forbidden.


That difference lasts only as long as it takes for federal interests to infiltrate that corporation under the guise of normal employees and board members.


Please tell me more.


Twitter are far from angels. However:

1. There's a huge difference between shutting down an account and compromising identity.

2. Having Twitter ban you is a COMPLETELY different scale than having the Feds coming after you because you mocked the President.

What Twitter did to Milo may have been shitty, but it wouldn't particularly invoke fear. What the Feds are doing here is terrifying.


>because you mocked the President.

That's not true. The us government is asking for the account holders identities (no shut down request) because the government suspects that the account owners are civilians (or possibly foreign actors) posing as federal employees. The account derives it's authority by saying that it is run by employees of a federal agency. It's a serious federal crime to impersonate a federal employee. The government has not asked to shut down the account.

I suspect the government will make a decision after they know the identities, but there is just enough evidence to assume the account holder is faking their authority as there is to believe its real.


> impersonating a federal agent

> (possibly foreign actors) posing as federal employees

> impersonate a federal employee

Just one look at the twitter account in question makes it clear this entire line of reasoning is absurd. Can't wait to hear more ham-fisted nonsense like this in the weeks to come.


Impersonating a Federal Agent is not a "serious" federal crime. And typically it's only prosecuted when done in relation to another crime. The only crime here is saying mean things about Trump.


I thought it was impersonating a federal agent in the line of duty that was a crime, ie it would not be a crime to claim that you work for the USCIS at a party, but it would be a crime to claim you work for the USCIS and demand to see someone's green card.


You don't think impersonating a federal agent in order to spread political propaganda is serious?


Claiming to be a federal agent, ex-military, a doctor, etc. is NOT a priori a crime. You can claim all manner of things. They may be unethical, but claiming something is very rarely criminal.

Spreading propaganda is not criminal. Many days I wish it were, but it is not.

You have to proceed to ACTION before something becomes criminal. So, if that account shared confidential information, now the feds can probably go get a subpoena and crack the identity.

Unless they have a subpoena, this is a fishing expedition for the purposes of intimidating others.


Are you sure about that? Police impersonation to my knowledge do not require additional criminal actions to be illegal, and it is enough to verbal claim that you are a police officer or change the appearance of a car to look like a police car.

The only case I know where police impersonation is legal is if those involved recognize the imposter is not a real police officer, and the imposter is not trying to deceive those involved into thinking he/she is. That is some very clear criteria of both intent and results which is part of the "rarely criminal" cases where without it it is criminal.


The equivalent would be Alt_SomeTownPD.

Looks like the worst they've done is made some screenshots https://twitter.com/ALT_uscis/status/833455581734326272 which don't look obviously wrong.

This is not the same as pulling over someone and pretending you're a cop. Context matters.


You don't need to pull someone over and do something which is illegal for a civilian. If you just modify a car to look like a police car and driver around with it, then that is likely enough. Similar, even if you only walk around in a police uniform with a fake badge and don't do anything more, it will likely end up badly.

Context matter, which is why intent and result are part of the equation. If people are being fooled into thinking someone is a police, and someone had the intent to fool others (maybe with the intention to create false association), then that is likely fully enough to get a person charged with impersonating a police officer.


So you think this twitter account is at the same level as the Fox News commentator who feds say faked a CIA career?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/fox-news-... https://archive.fo/Sj3w8


That's the equivalent of stolen valor, which is a separate issue of fabricating past accomplishments. The commentator did not claim they were a current CIA officer.


There are, I'm certain, many people impersonating Donald Trump on Twitter -- after all, his account goes out of its way to specify that he's the real Donald Trump.

The same is certain to be true for high-ranking members of his administration. The same is true for, I'm sure, quite a lot of members of Congress. My list of fake Supreme Court justices on Twitter unfortunately is down to just the fake Scalia who tweets from beyond the grave, since the other former members apparently went inactive or dropped off the service.

And it's not just the current government, either -- there's a Richard Nixon impersonator on Twitter who's been known to do some pretty biting commentary on current affairs.

And many of those accounts "spread political propaganda", if by that you mean "express and advocate for views contrary to those of the actual people the accounts impersonate".

Would you advocate that they all be rounded up for their vicious, heinous, nation-threatening crimes? Also, when did expressing a political opinion become a federal crime?


Is spreading political propaganda a crime? I'm sure the US Government would have loved to have had your legal advice back during WW2 when it was spreading anti-Hitler propaganda throughout Europe.


Almost everything the CIA does is illegal in the countries it operates in. Regardless of whatever US law says, I am certain that spreading anti-Hitler propaganda in German-controlled WWII Europe was certainly illegal.


In that case I guess I'm happy someone stepped up and broke the law.


Ah yes, 'liberal propaganda' (aka facts) = Nazi germany. Man, the tired rehashed alt-right babble gets exhausting.


Well then if the Trump administration is searching for "Foreign actors posing as federal employees", shouldn't it first look into a mirror instead of twitter first?


Sick burn. However, about ten paragraphs in, and after mentioning Trump serveral times, the article states:

> There is no indication that the White House was aware of the summons, which was signed by a Florida-based supervisor who works in an office that investigates employee corruption, misconduct and mismanagement. The supervisor could not be reached for comment.

So while this supervisor might be serving as a catspaw of the administration (who can say at this point?), this article (and the related discussion) seems to be using it to stir up controversy about Trump, whose only known involvement at present is as one of the subjects `ALT_uscis` tweets about.


Milo was banned for repeated rule violations and getting a troll army to harass Leslie Jones. Stop trying to revise history.


Can you please post a single tweet where Milo incited people to harass Leslie Jones?

If, instead, you believe mocking and criticizing someone is inciting people to harass, do you think all popular accounts that mock and criticize others should be removed from twitter"?


All the tweets are deleted now so obviously I can't post any of them. Twitter does have access to Milo's DM history, however, and you can be banned for inciting harassment through direct message.


Surely someone with hundreds of thousands of followers inciting harassment would be archived somewhere on the Internet. Why do you think it isn't?

Any references for your DM theory?


> getting a troll army to harass Leslie Jones

How did Twitter verify this?


Twitter has access to a lot more than you guys do, that's for sure. Like his dms, his followers, and all that.

Second, his account was suspended many times. Repeatedly. Eventually they banned him.


> Twitter has access to a lot more than you guys do, that's for sure

Then why not reveal this?


You want them to reveal Milo's private DMs with other people? I think they absolutely shouldn't: Milo still has a right to privacy. I get that it makes things inconvenient for us onlookers because we can't independently verify these things to determine if Twitter is overreaching, but the alternative is exposing private information about Milo to the world. If Milo were to say "go ahead and release everything you have on me, I've got nothing to hide" that would be different.


Just state that he personally organised the harassment.


They have absolutely nothing to gain from slandering the guy.


By slander, you mean make false comments?


Easy: they don't benefit at all from it. I'm not a lawyer, but I can easily see how it's not a good idea to talk bad about someone who used your platform.

There's nothing to gain, and a lot to lose by doing so. It's kinda lose-lose for Twitter, but few people seriously care about Milo getting banned.


Milo has explicitly stated he didn't incite harassment, so the benefit would be demonstrating that the ban was not politically-based.

> it's not a good idea to talk bad

talking bad vs providing evidence of intent to incite harassment.

> but few people seriously care about Milo getting banned

Hmm, perhaps in your own bubble


Why do you care so much what Twitter does?


Ad Hom. Do 'people' care, or don't they? That was your statement.


I'm not really debating you since there isn't much to debate. I'm just curious why you care so much about what a private company allows on their platform.


I'm not really engaging with your curiosity, either.


ok.


Milo was banned for completely innocuous tweets, and a look at the tweets in question confirms as much.


The comment you are replying to didn't even MENTION twitter. They aren't praising Twitter for refusing the order, they are criticizing the government for requesting the order. Why is what Twitter has done in the past relevant to that critique?


Because the title frames Twitter as the defenders of free speech. Something they clearly have given up on a long time ago.


It doesn't frame them as anything, it just documents the fact that the firm has made a legal filing in response to a summons.


Which title? The article title?


Yes. Twitter silencing a user on their own isn't the same as Twitter silencing a user due to a government order.


They don't have to be the same. Apples and oranges are not the same but they have enough similarities to be comparable in certain cases.

When Twitter's defense against the government's request is because of the ideal of free speech, not the First Amendment but the ideal that it is based on that predates the First Amendment, then it is worth pointing out the double standard in Twitter's own behavior not upholding that ideal.

That said, Twitter having a double standard does not invalidate their argument. From a purely logical perspective, an argument does not depend upon who says it or why they say it. But rarely are people interacting on that purely logical level, and so Twitter's double standard does allow us to both poke fun at Twitter and to call into question their actual reasoning as potentially being different than their stated reasoning.


>When Twitter's defense against the government's request is because of the ideal of free speech, not the First Amendment but the ideal that it is based on that predates the First Amendment, then it is worth pointing out the double standard in Twitter's own behavior not upholding that ideal.

There's no double standard though. This is like saying: "how can a newspaper say they're in favor of free speech if they're not willing to publish any story that's submitted to them?"

Twitter can support free speech by advocating for their right to control their platform, and for other people to have the right to create their own platforms and put content on it. The government using strong-arm tactics to unmask critics is a threat to free speech through any medium.


That is not even what's happening. Did you even read the report?

The US is asking for the identities, because they suspect someone is impersonating a federal agent. The government has made NO REQUEST to shut down the account.


No-body believes that narrative, the account is called "Alt [Emoji] Immigration" and the bio says "Immigration resistance . Team 2.0 1/2 Not the views of DHS or USCIS. Old fellow drank russian soup."


While it's difficult to move everyone over to another social media account, it's easier than moving everyone over to another government. So yeah, it's quite different.


if anything, it shows that Twitter is able to tell the difference between a harassing troll, that requires moderation like any public communication platform on the net needs to moderate, and the other being someone who needs their right to free speech defended when criticising the government.

I wanted to downvote you but did not because I suppose this is an important question to ask and it adds to the discussion. However, the way you frame the question, the feigned incredulity, almost makes me reconsider. Unless you truly mean you're unable to spot the difference between the two (in which case I don't need to hear about it).


> We're talking about the same Twitter that shut down Milo Yiannopolis' account because Twitter didn't like what he was saying?

Nope! We're talking about the same Twitter that shut down Milo Yiannopolis' account because he openly encouraged people to harass an actress (Leslie Jones), including sharing fake screenshots making it look like she tweeted a bunch of offensive stuff, because she was in a movie he didn't like (Ghostbusters).


read AOsborn comment above. here is the link to Leslie Jones encouraging people to harass someone she doesn't like:

https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/755218642674020352

some animals are more equal than others?


Those goalposts keep moving. Did you happen to see what that tweet was in response to? @whitebecky1776: "hey @Lesdoggg you look like a pregnant gorilla" "I was so hyped to see harambe on the big screen @Lesdoggg" "Harambe gave birth to @Lesdoggg don't disrespect harambe."

My impression is that Twitter leans towards letting minor offenses slide and punishing only the most egregious. I'm not saying I agree with that policy, but it is consistent.

So, unless you think that losing your temper at someone who repeatedly calls a black person an ape is morally equivalent to leading an extended harassment campaign against someone and fraudulently attributing statements to them because they were in a movie you didn't like, you've got no grounds at all to say that Milo was only banned for his politics.

May I suggest, as a matter of tactics, that you pick some less thoroughly reprehensible martyrs next time? Surely there's someone who's been banned from Twitter who didn't obviously deserve it.


As far as I can tell, none of the ape comments were made by Milo? Which specific comment of his did he do so, or incite harassment?

I researched Milo for a while, after seeing his initial interview with David Rubin, where he explained some of the politics behind Gamergate. Although his own politics is quite contrary to mine, I agree with him that there is a regressive left that would rather shutdown conversations than debate. They have a blatant disregard of facts and data, exactly what they accuse conservatives of doing, but they feel they are uniquely justified by noble motives which is misguided at best. I would agree with Milo on that being a nonsensical approach, and should be admonished by any true liberal who supports free speech and the exchange of ideas. Twitter effectively held Milo accountable for the actions of other people who were simply on the same side of the argument, that being that the new Ghostbusters was a terrible movie, on a pretty weak premise of his inciting harassment, but as far as I can tell from his quotes, all he was guilty of in that context was being downright nasty in his criticism of Leslie Jones' appearance and her illiteracy (as her spelling and grammar is atrocious), at the same time as stating his sexual proclivity towards African American men. But perhaps I missed some of his quotes, as I didn't follow the original conversation and have only found quotes of him in various articles, so please enlighten me with specific quotes if I'm mistaken.


> As far as I can tell, none of the ape comments were made by Milo? Which specific comment of his did he do so, or incite harassment?

Milo wasn't doing the racist jabs, no. shitgoose said that Leslie Jones was just as bad as Milo because she also tried to sic her fanbase on someone (Whitebecky1776). I was pointing out that Whitebecky1776 provoked Jones with repeated racial slurs, whereas Jones provoked Milo by being in a movie he didn't like; perhaps Jones should have received some sort of disciplinary action, but the situations aren't really equivalent.

I got the Whitebecky1776 stuff from http://www.irontroll.com/2016/07/milos-friend-whitebecky1776..., and the stuff about Milo sharing fake Twitter screenshots from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/07.... Note also that Milo had been repeatedly warned for violating Twitter's rules before this incident; he can hardly claim that Jones got more second chances than he did.


(1) Jones sends her followers to harass Milo, (2) Milo does not like Jones's movie. Milo gets banned. Jones doesn't. Yea, situations aren't really equivalent.


Just for the record, you made that up. Milo went after her first.

...Do you think the "get her" tweet you posted above was directed at Milo? You may be confused.


my friend, you should see the epithets that Milo was awarded by progressive crowd! was anyone banned from the other side? as a matter of tactics?


The idea that someone can both equate this situation and Milo's AND do so while mocking someone else's point as not good is stunning to me.


So Twitter didn't do the right thing then. Does that mean they shouldn't do the right thing now?


Twitter can reinstate Milo's account at anytime, yet they haven't.

By continuing their Milo ban on twitter, they lose the ability to wave the "free speech" banner.


For values of "didn't like what he was saying" equal to: flagrantly and repeatedly violated their terms of service and broke the law by using twitter to organize targeted harassment of individuals.


Equivocating about harassment, that's really the hill you want to die on?


Twitter is not bound by the First Amendment, nor should it be.


The OP criticised the government and didn't mention Twitter. I think he's talking about the government, not Twitter.


No, we're talking about the Twitter that shut down his account for repeatedly breaking the ToS.


What ToS did he break? Because as far I know he broke none. He did however call out that actress who has a twitter account full of racist tweets which do violate the ToS and her account is still active and actively posting racist tweets.


You talking about Leslie Jones? He photo-shopped some images to look like screen grabs of Leslie Jones saying racist things. Can you link to a racist tweet she has actually posted?

And the TOS term he broke was actively inciting others to personally harass Leslie Jones.


>Can you link to a racist tweet she has actually posted?

Here you go, the list is not comprehensive:

https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/463074782205190144 https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/440339119239991296 https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/504060745026637825 https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/169001733417213952

As for inciting others to personally harass someone, Leslie Jones herself is very guilty of that, even moreso than Milo. Nowhere did Milo say (as far as I remember) something like "go and harass her", while she did exactly that to someone https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/755218642674020352

EDIT: I don't understand the downvotes, can someone explain why? Those are links directly to her twitter, primary source. Nothing is made up by me. Just because it goes against your opinion?


Yes, that is likely the reason for the downvotes.

For reference, source text from https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/755218642674020352

"Replying to @PetriJonathan @whitebecky1776 bitch I want to tell you about your self but I'm gonna let everybody else do it I'm gonna retweet your hate!! Get her!!"

Inarguably inciting harassment.

The last couple of years have been a disaster in terms of brigading and willful ignorance of evidence that does not fit the narrative of the commentator. Rational views are easily drowned out online, becoming a signal vs noise issue.

I see this on a daily basis, on all aspects of the politial spectrum. Bigger issue than fake news in my opinion.


How are those tweets racist? She is pointing out that slavery condoned rape. That's not racist, it's called history.


These seem pretty racist:

> get the fuck outta here a white boy is best dj wtf?

> wait a minute is solomon sitting by a white women…#imgonnafuckhimup


Are you actually threatened by these comments?


Being threatened is not a qualifier for being racist. You can definitely be extremely racist without threatening anyone.


I just feel that, like all things, there's a context around racism.


Solomon might be.


The rule against harassment.

https://support.twitter.com/articles/18311

> actively posting racist tweets.

[Citation Needed]


> "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

trivia: credited to E.B. Hall, neatly summing up Voltaire's thoughts, so often gets misattributed to the latter.


Sounds like the typical problem with authoritarian figures. For some reason, they lack the self confidence to handle criticism.


>seems like this is how dictatorships/autocracy/totalitarianism start.

Your police forces robs your citizenry in broad daylight with the support of your judiciary[1].

What kind of country did you think you were living in?

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_forfeiture_in_the_United...


Whoa. So many comments. Don't know where to start..

I was definitely not commenting on Twitter's action on this order, though I am glad that they're fighting for free speech. That doesn't mean I agree with all of Twitter's past decisions, and I don't know enough about Milo Yiannopolis's case to express a strong opinion about where I stand on the issue.

As with a lot of things in life, I think there's a huge gray area in this spectrum of freedom vs security debate, but I hope that we can all agree that being prosecuted for criticizing the government is past the gray area, as is citing freedom of speech as the justification to tweeting out a bomb threat. (I would put harassment that incites fear in others in this category, but whether to penalize those who encourage harassment or just those who actually do the harassment seems to be a matter to debate about.) And this particular case seems to be in the former bucket; even though there may be some parts of the law that allows the government to order the identity of the account, making use of that is abusing its power with bad implications.

Someone in the thread pointed out that the white house may not have known anything about the order (~10th paragraph in the article), and the article might be part of the fear-mongering happening on the leftist news. While I hope that that is the case, I think we should all still be vigilant to these signs of threats to freedom and our rights. I did not grow up in a dictatorship so I can only guess at how it starts; I don't think it happens overnight, I think it's a gradual process of taking away our freedom, spreading only their version of the news as truth, then more and more until we are that boiling frog in the pot that did not see it coming. But we can be vigilant and fight each time anything like this happens, as Twitter is doing now by fighting and publicizing this case.


Does the same sentiment protect Manning or Snowden?

In this case:

> The account is claimed to be the work of at least one federal immigration employee...

> ...the account describes itself as "immigration resistance."

Are government officials resisting their own roles covered by the same sentiment?

Lets face it, Trump has no end of critics; there is a reason this one is being targeted, so general "free speech" discussions are missing the target here.


doesn't NSA have access to all my gmail, facebook, yahoo ect. I have no idea what govt can see and what it can't so I assume govt know everything.

It think its unfair to call this "criticizers of the government" there are thousands of such accounts. This account is undermining immigration actions that people elected this govt for.


Source for undermining? It says 'Not the views of DHS or USCIS' right at the top.


If the government were to pursue this kind of action against "criticizers" of the government on Twitter, that's all they'd be doing. Your imaginary scenario may well be terrifying to you. But it's not reality, as you seem to know by using the word "potentially." Focus on reality instead of a dreamed-up fantasy, and you won't be so truly terrified.


The US government forcing a private company to reveal my identity because of an opinion I hold is terrifying to me.


welcome to the club.


Its disturbing the amount of posters here who are directly equating banning users who actively post racist, hateful bullshit and handing over the user info of somebody who opposes the president.

Because they did one they should do the other? what?


What's more disturbing is how normalized it's becoming to frame any criticism as hate-speech. That should scare you.


That may also be disturbing (if true), but in no world is it more disturbing than the executive branch of the federal government attempting to punish dissent. This is on a very short list of the most important things our system is designed to prevent from working. It hasn't worked yet, and the courts seem to be broadly willing to check the administration's behavior, but it's telling that they even had the gall to try.


> the executive branch of the federal government attempting to punish dissent

Like using the IRS to target conservatives?


That didn't happen. You were lied to.


I think rfrank meant "conservative groups", and the IRS actually apologized for doing it:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/05/10/irs-...


The IRS also was scrutinizing liberal and Occupy groups. And it was all done at the request of senators. Political groups are not supposed to claim 501c4 nonprofit status. Tea Party and Occupy groups were breaking the law so the IRS started looking into the explosion in political groups claiming non-profit status. Keywords the IRS agents were on the lookout for included "Tea Party", "Patriots", or "9/12 Project", "progressive," "occupy," "Israel," "open source software," "medical marijuana" and "occupied territory advocacy".

Then Congressional Republicans turned it into a successful fake news witch hunt against Obama saying he was abusing his power by targeting conservatives.

Read wikipedia for a mostly objective account https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS_targeting_controversy


> Read wikipedia for a mostly objective account https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS_targeting_controversy

Over the two years between April 2010 and April 2012, the IRS essentially placed on hold the processing of applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exemption status received from organizations with "Tea Party", "patriots", or "9/12" in their names.

...

While [Inspector General J. Russell George] had many sources confirming the use of "Tea Party" and related criteria described in the report, including employee interviews and e-mails, he found no indication in any of those other materials that "Progressives" was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention.[86] The letter further stated that out of the 20 groups applying for tax-exempt status whose names contained "progress" or "progressive", 6 had been chosen for more scrutiny as compared to all of the 292 groups applying for tax-exempt status whose names contained "tea party", "patriot", or "9/12".[85][89][90][91]


> Read wikipedia for a mostly objective account

You don't actually believe that, do you? Wikipedia is so left-leaning it virtually capsizes.


Do you have any sourced information that suggests what is on Wikipedia is wrong? I'd love to hear it if so.


> Do you have any sourced information that suggests what is on Wikipedia is wrong?

Are you implying that everything on Wikipedia is correct?

> I'd love to hear it if so.

This implies that you've never read anything negative about Wikipedia. I feel like, if that's the case, you must either have avoided such information, or have just gotten Internet access for the first time. If you would honestly love to hear it, then you could have already found it by using Google.

Please avoid sea-lioning.


The implication is that they've never read any sourced information about bias on Wikipedia, not that they've never read anything negative about Wikipedia. Certainly we've all read plenty of opinion and insinuation, but factual analysis is harder to come by, not just for this question, but for all questions. It's a pretty good rule of thumb that you can't do a simple Google for factual information on a hot topic, because your results will be drowned out by opinionated noise. So your implication that you can find this "by using Google" immediately makes me think that you haven't actually seen any yourself, but are parroting opinions you've read. I haven't seen any objective analyses of Wikipedia's bias myself, but this isn't something I look for information on, and I suspect they exist somewhere.

Edit: I didn't know what sea-lioning was, so I just looked it up. Asking for sources when someone makes a broad claim doesn't seem to fit the definition.


I disagree. "Sourced information" is arbitrary, vague, and ultimately meaningless. All information is "sourced," and each person must come to their own conclusions about the validity of information. Finally, while an objective study of factual accuracy might be feasible, any study of political bias would necessarily be subjective, because despite any attempted rigor, it ultimately boils down to the researcher's judgment. Therefore, believing that Wikipedia must be unbiased unless it can be objectively proven to be biased is unreasonable. On the contrary: since Wikipedia is made by humans, and humans are necessarily biased, it must be biased.

> So your implication that you can find this "by using Google" immediately makes me think that you haven't actually seen any yourself, but are parroting opinions you've read. I haven't seen any objective analyses of Wikipedia's bias myself, but this isn't something I look for information on, and I suspect they exist somewhere.

Fascinating: you make an unwarranted assumption about me, then accuse me of parroting, and then admit that you yourself have neglected to even attempt the most basic search. You seem to be accusing me of what you have convicted yourself of.

I perceive two definitions of sea-lioning, one of which is attempting to provoke by making demands for sources which meet arbitrary standards. It's typically followed by moving the goalposts until the respondent gives up, after which the sea-lion asserts victory. In other words, it's a form of trolling, not of serious discussion. Given the nature of the argument (whether Wikipedia is biased is necessarily subjective), and the arbitrary standard ("sourced information"), I conclude that it's sea-lioning. You're free to disagree.


Lookit, you made a very broad claim for which you still haven't even tried to give any evidence. It's fine to say, "in my opinion, based on what I've read, wikipedia is biased", but when you present something as a fact, if someone asks you for evidence, you shouldn't be outraged, you should either say, "oh you're right, here's some evidence", or you should say "I don't really have any direct evidence, this is my opinion based on my accumulated experience".

I really do understand the annoyance of finding and citing sources for things that you're pretty sure are true based on accumulated experience, but don't have any handy links for - we all have that problem, it's exhausting - but it doesn't mean you can just state your opinions as fact and expect to not be called out on sourcing them. I find the pattern of "go look it up yourself" that you used especially off-putting - you made the claim, you aren't willing to put the work in to cite sources, but you expect me to?

I'm not making a claim one way or another about wikipedia's bias. It isn't a topic that interests me enough to go research it. I only hopped into the thread because you triggered my pet peeve of "here's a claim, now you look it up!". But obviously that is always stupid to do. Edit: that is, hopping into threads you have no investment in is stupid to do.

I'm sorry I accused you of parroting, I couldn't think of a better word.


Look, I just explained that any claim about Wikipedia's political bias is necessarily subjective. Obviously, therefore, I am not claiming my statement as fact.

If your beef with me truly boils down to, "You didn't prepend the words 'I think' to your claim," then I would have to agree that this has been a waste of time. Just because someone uses the word "is" doesn't mean they intend their statement as a fact. This isn't an academic journal, it's the Internet Argument Clinic.

(I really wish the other guy had answered my question of whether he thinks everything on Wikipedia is correct. That's the real issue at stake.)


I'd argue that Wikipedia isn't left, but it's focus of published media, and the fact that much of the American media is left, causes this effect.


That's a good point, and you're probably right that a lot of it is due to that.

I would add my anecdotal observations that, whenever I have looked at the edit history and talk pages for anything remotely political, the non-left views are virtually shouted down and literally edited out ad nauseam. The editors by-and-large seem to have a strong left-leaning ideology.


There are thousands of churches across the US who tell their congregation who to vote for. The IRS doesn't touch them.

The right has privileges the left doesn't have, too. Unfortunately things aren't fair.


Trying to avoid getting further into the muck - I meant the very specific way of punishing dissent: attempting to reveal the identity of anonymous dissenters.


Two bad things by both sides doesn't make them right


It's just amusing to me how only one of those bad things seems to be "terrifying" or "disturbing". Which is worse, unmasking the twitter account owner, or Susan Rice's unmasking of intel reports on Trump's campaign staff?


The equivalent to "unmasking" would be someone inside twitter knowing the name. Totally incomparable to mandated disclosure.


Doesn't it bother you that these names showed up in intelligence reports on Russia?


Would it bother you if Nancy Pelosi's name did? After all, she's had meetings with the Russian prime minister, ambassador, etc. Photographic proof on Twitter.


Nancy Pelosi is also House minority leader who would have official business with the Ambassador. Pelosi's meetings were also not in secret.


"intelligence reports on Russia" = had a phone conversation with Russian ambassador. in soviet union one could easily get a prison sentence for talking to US ambassador. it is fascinating to watch the transformation of US into USSR.


Why do you want to ignore and sweep away the investigations into the possible misdeeds of Trump and his associates? Are you a paid Russian troll?


I disagree. I think it's more disturbing how normalized it is to frame hate-speech and harassment as simply criticism.


Surely this is really the fundamental disagreement.

Group 1: I would rather deal with harassment and hate speech than risk erroneously silencing someone I need to hear.

Group 2: I would rather risk silencing someone who's voice ought to be heard than allow someone use speech to hurt another person with harassment or hate.

---

Group 1 isn't trying to promote hate speech or harassment, they're just worried about the potentially malicious intentions of those that want to decide what speech falls under those banners.

Group 2 isn't trying to silence opinions they disagree with, they're just worried that people are getting better at subtly codifying their hate speech in a way that gives them plausible deniability to out-groups but is obviously hateful to the in-group.

I think the important takeaway is that neither 'side' is evil and despite the fact that it causes heated arguments one should maintain respect for those they disagree with.


Your description of the groups is oversimplifying things and isn't a very "fundamental" dichotomy at all. The key phrase is "silencing someone." There is a continuum of power that a private individual or corporation or government can have to "silence" someone.

At one end of the continuum is an individual hanging up the phone when they decide they've heard enough from whoever called them. I think most of us would agree that this doesn't violate the principles of free speech, even if the caller was expressing valid ideas.

At the other end of the continuum is a government imprisoning someone for their speech. I think most of us would agree that this violates the principles (and laws) of free speech, except in certain circumstances (e.g. falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre).

But there are cases in the middle of the continuum where things aren't so clear. If I run a small blog with occasional guest writers, a lot of us would probably agree that I can choose at will which content I publish without violating the principles of free speech.

But what if my blog has millions of viewers? What if it has become more of a "news site" or "forum" than a "blog?" What if it's the largest such site in the world, and the only one with significant market share? Perhaps then many of us would accuse me of violating the principles of free speech, since I have significant power to "silence" certain people or ideas.


I'm still a bit confused about libertarianism. Is this argument libertarian? It feels like it is because you're arguing in favor of allowing people to do as they please (freedom of speech) so long as it doesn't cause clear hurt to others (like yelling "fire" and giving someone a heart attack). You're arguing for the govt to get out of our way, and for private entities to fill in gaps, without restrictions. But if what you want is this unrestricted freedom, then shouldn't you be happy about Twitter? After all, by removing Milo, Twitter exercised the very freedom you seem to advocate for. They are a private entity, doing as they please. Why should Twitter be forced to store Milo's data on their servers and serve it up to users if Twitter, a private entity, chooses not to?

I understand libertarianism in many social contexts (e.g. "People who aren't straight are not hurting anyone by not being straight, so there should not be any draconian laws against people for not being straight"), but I can't wrap my head around libertarianism in the context of all these "free-speech" arguments. I feel like I'm missing something, which would make a lot of sense considering how little I have read about libertarianism


The key thing to understand about libertarianism is that all of the arguments against governments apply equally to any organization with sufficient coercive power.

Many libertarians believe that if not for government interference, monopolies wouldn't form in the free market. Those people are right in some cases (e.g. payment processing) and wrong in others (e.g. roads). But the dogmatic position asserts that it's true in all cases, and then no corporation would have sufficient coercive power so you only have to worry about the government.

If you take the practical approach and accept that there are always going to be some private monopolies and oligopolies, or even the pragmatic approach that they actually exist today and we have to deal with them today even if the wonder of the free market will eliminate them in the future, then we have to hold sufficiently coercive corporations to the same standards as governments. And at the same time try as hard as we can to destroy their coercive power, so that we can stop needing to do that.


Thank you so much! This comment has been very informative, and I'm glad you threw in the part about being dogmatic. I had been assuming libertatians were very dogmatic about libertarianism based on the libertarians I know, but reading your comment made me realize the stupidity of that.


I wouldn't call my previous comment particularly libertarian, although some of the claims seem to overlap with libertarianism as I understand it. Most of my comment is descriptive rather than prescriptive. I certainly think you're looking into my comment and find things I didn't say or imply, like the "private entities filling in gaps without restrictions" part.

Really, what I'm saying is that there are two ends of the continuum that look pretty obvious and which I suspect the vast majority of people would agree with, but within the continuum things get less clear are offer more room for disagreement.


Sorry, I assumed you were libertarian based on your comment, and went from there. You definitely didn't say or imply anything about "private entities filling in gaps without restrictions" I just assumed you felt that way because I assumed you were libertarian based on your stance.

I definitely agree that it's not black and white, especially as you delve into the corner cases.


I find it funny that someone isn't sure whether to agree with you until you put a label on your views. Once you pick a team, they'll be free to figure out what they think.


Lol my comment started with "I'm still a bit confused about libertarianism" and went on to ask for clarification on libertarianism, a subject I know little about. The reply was essentially "You looked deeper than my comment really went into libertarianism" - how did you arrive at your current conclusion? Who here is looking for a team? The person asking to understand a point of view? The person clarifying their original message? I don't think anyone hear is looking to team up based on labels


The beginning of the comment was "I'm still a bit confused about libertarianism. Is this argument libertarian?"

Perhaps I misread this, but it sounded an awful lot like "are you on the libertarian team?"


twitter has every right to do whatever they want on their platform. we have every right to ridicule twitter for double standards.


The first amendment does not guarantee a right to a platform.


I agree with the gist of your post, however, I found this example slightly jarring:

> except in certain circumstances (e.g. falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre).

Considering it originates from suppression of wartime dissent - https://www.popehat.com/2012/09/19/three-generations-of-a-ha...


I'm well aware. I don't think that opposition to conscription is equivalent to falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre, but the latter phrase is still the goto example.


But the point in that post is this "goto example" is actually an example of the vague rationalizations used in attempts to censor speech. It covers two pillars of free speech exceptions which are both controversial - incitement(the case where the phrase came from), which Brandenburg vs Ohio narrowed significantly, and false statement of fact, which is very controversial, with decisions like Sullivan protecting newspapers from almost any liability vs the government.

The problem with almost all of the exceptions on freedom of speech is that they're all meant to be just that, exceptions in the most extreme of cases, and none of them are without controversy and tons of reinterpretation. Handwaving them away with the simplistic "falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater" does not do any of them justice.


I really am quite aware of Schenck v. United States. Truly. I don't agree with that particular application of the phrase. However, the phrase still does describe what I believe is a genuine instance where speech ought to be infringed. Moreover, it is a common idiom for such instances regardless of its original application to criticism of conscription.


I think Group 2 is, in practice, more reasonable. It seems like the only time someone gets banned is when they're a huge asshole about whatever controversial opinion they may have. I've yet to see a tactful, levelheaded person be banned for their controversial views. It's like the only casualties with Group 2's ideals are annoying assholes, which hardly feels like a loss.

To me, having terrible people silenced in your community seems far better of a "drawback" than having marginalized people harassed in your community.


This is also commonly the case:

Group 1: I would rather others deal with harassment and hate speech than risk erroneously silencing someone I need to hear.


That may be an interesting debate, but it is a derailment from what's going on here. This is just about the executive of the US federal government attempting to determine the identity of an anonymous dissident.


I cannot agree with the way you've set up those groups. Mainly because I don't think it's that difficult to ban the harassment and hate speech without erroneously silencing someone who shouldn't be silenced. I don't buy the slippery slope argument on this one.

I honestly think that Group 1 is more often, "I'm fine with the others being harassed, so I'm going to pretend we're talking about criticism or something like that instead of harassment."


As long as both sides do agree this is accurate, this seems like a great summary of the perspectives involved.


> I think the important takeaway is that neither 'side' is evil

I disagree. While group 2 may not intend evil, they are attempting to control others' speech. By their own standard, effect matters, not intent. To exercise control over others against their will is evil. Therefore they are evil.

Their sole principle is that the ends justify the means, which is the equivalent of might-makes-right. By that priniciple, whoever happens to be in power will get away with whatever they want. In other words, opportunistic authoritarianism rather than the rule of law.


While I don't doubt that there's an increasing trend to shout "hate speech" in an effort to shut down discussion (and that's obviously dangerous) there is equally a worrying trend of dismissing co-ordinated campaigns or harassment and personal attacks as "free speech".

There's more complexity here than you're acknowledging.


And things labeled hate speech isnt as easily defined as some seem to imply.


> there is equally a worrying trend of dismissing co-ordinated campaigns or harassment and personal attacks as "free speech"

Why is this more worrying? Seems less worrying to me if by harassment/attack you mean purely verbal online gabber.


No, id say the goverment directly attacking people who criticise them is a more disturbing development.


I don't see why criticism being normalized as hate-speech is more scary than equating banning users who actively post racist, hateful bullshit and handing over the user info of somebody who opposes the president.

One has people starting mobs against each other while the other has people thinking actions taken against demagogues is of the same vein as government suppression of dissent.

You're more afraid of mobs of people shit talking you than the government arresting you for your opinions if they don't agree with them?


Its a problem when it isnt consistent.


So you claim you're more afraid of inconsistent mobs than the government when it comes to suppression of dissent, or are you just derailing?


Can you provide an example of simple criticism being framed as hate-speech?


Yes, milo yiannopoulos'a criticism of the ghostbusters movie. Show me the actual "hate speech". It's become common for any criticism of liberals to be framed as hate speech.


If all he'd done was criticize a movie or a celebrity, nothing would have happened but what what he actually did was to repeat racist slurs[1] and incite other people to attack her by reposting fake screenshots as if they're real[2], and continuing long after it was clear that she wasn't interested in hearing from him or the rest of the GamerGate brigades.

As a private company, Twitter is under no obligation to provide anyone with a forum and their terms of service (https://twitter.com/tos and https://support.twitter.com/articles/18311) very clearly exclude that kind of behaviour:

> Harassment: You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. > Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.

1. Called her an ape, echoing a long history of racist comparisons: https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/755182965060169728 2. Examples at http://www.vox.com/2016/7/20/12226070/milo-yiannopoulus-twit...


> 1. Called her an ape, echoing a long history of racist comparisons: https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/755182965060169728

Not to defend Milo here (it certainly sounds like he deserved to be banned for harassment), but the tweet in this screenshot doesn't seem to be him? It's from "evyarb9000", and from a quick Google search, Milo's username was "Nero". (He must have grabbed that handle pretty early on...)


That's not him but I thought he retweeted it but unfortunately all of the history disappeared with his account.


Milo wasn't banned for hate speech: he was banned for encouraging harassment of Leslie Jones.


This is false. She directed her followers to attack him, not the other way around.


> Horrible to compare Black Lives Matter to ISIS.

ISIS is coherent, effective and well-organised. twitter.com/MADBLACKTWINK/

> We need aspirational role models. We need fantasy. We need the unattainable. We need something to strive for. Fuck feminism.

> Michelle's a tranny, not a queen. Drag queens are fierce, fabulous, ballsy, hilarious & brave. Trannies are insane.

> Liberals: the problem with putting Muslims at the top of your victimhood hierarchy is that THEY WANT TO KILL EVERYONE ELSE ON THE LIST

> Muslims are like the common cold and leftists are like Aids. It's easy to fight off a cold... unless you have Aids. pic.twitter.com/S9amPR1YVa

Etc.


If it were more common, perhaps. What has become incredibly common is framing hate-speech as criticism. That should scare you.


That's a fair point as well. But, both of those are cultural issues we will work through eventually, IMO. The federal government abusing its power is a procedural error that needs immediate veto.


If a government employee publicly takes positions in opposition of their job duties, it's legitimate for the government to look to see if they are properly doing their job.

Everyone, gov. employees included, have first amendment rights. However they do not have the right to have their own agenda in their role as a government worker. That flies in the face of the core principle of the constitutional election of legislative and executive officers.

(If you want an example of twitter being inconsistent, just compare the suspension of Glenn Reynolds - instapundit - for tweeting "Run. Them. Down." in response to rioters on I277 and the lack of action on the multiple and explicit death threats the are tweeted regularly.)


> If a government employee publicly takes positions in opposition of their job duties

Civil servants swear an oath to defend the constitution, not the political interests of whoever happens to be in office currently. Anyone who doesn't want to live in a banana republic should strongly support that.


And the government is welcome to investigate. But they can't compel a third party to help them conduct the investigation just because it would be easier on them.

I doubt there's a legal basis for saying that these "alt_X" accounts are functioning in the role of a federal worker. They're obviously not advocating the official government position -- that's the whole point of them. They clearly state they aren't reflective of the views of the agency they're referencing. You'd effectively be arguing that no government employee could ever, in any capacity, express an opinion related to the function of their agency.


> But they can't compel a third party to help them conduct the investigation just because it would be easier on them.

This is a ridiculous statement. Who isn't a third party in an investigation, other than the investigated and the investigators? Bank records, third party statements, etc. This is one of those statements to save for posterity.


As many have noted, suspending accounts is very different than de-anonymizing them. And the government doing things is different than a private organization doing things.


but its against trump so its ok


> somebody who opposes the president.

What disturbs me even more, is how the media is able to shape the narrative that this is about president Trump's hurt feelings, and has nothing to do with anything else.

Like the whole Muslim ban story [that was really a list of countries numerating all the death sentence destinations to Americans].

Or kind of like the narrative that Assad likes to gas random civilians whenever the US peaks in its interest in having an intervention over there.

Even though none of this makes sense, people just don't look any further into what really is going on, and happily degenerate into the narrative.

But the real irony here, is that the people at the top, that made and control your side, aren't really on your side... They just want division (and sides) - so you lose even when you think you are winning.


What is this about, then? I don't see what it has to do with your other examples. It appears to be a straightforward case of trying to identify and punish a political dissident.


The concerning thing is that the headline frames it in the context of Trump, implying that the government is pursuing the information at the President's request.

However, about ten paragraphs in they mention:

> There is no indication that the White House was aware of the summons, which was signed by a Florida-based supervisor who works in an office that investigates employee corruption, misconduct and mismanagement. The supervisor could not be reached for comment."

So all we know at the moment is that some manager, somewhere in Florida, is looking into `ALT_uscis`. And yet, the article mentions Trump multiple times (including in the headline) before that, giving the impression that Trump is pursuing legal action that would seem to compromise freedom of speech. It's not unreasonable to infer that the journalists taking this angle on the story have an axe to grind.

Either way, I took a brief look at the `ALT_uscis` account and didn't see any tweets alluding to malfeasance or obstructive action in their official capacity, so I'm inclined to agree that this is government overreach.


Thanks. This is very fair. I agree with your assessment that it appears to be overreach but that the President-personally angle is being overplayed here.


It's getting so ridiculous, and I'm sad it's leaking over to Hacker News. People have become so delusional from their outrage over Trump's election.


Can you post a link for someone who has no idea what you're referring to?


You mean users like Leslie Jones? https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/440339119239991296 https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/564664734268411906 https://twitter.com/Lesdoggg/status/755218642674020352

You're right, not handing over user info of somebody who opposes the president is a lot like not banning users who actively post racist, hateful bullshit.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: