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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


"well now on CNN! and we gained 17000 followers in less than 30 minutes. Thank you CBP/Trump"

I just learnt about the Streisand Effect this afternoon -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

Yep, try and sue or suppress someone and you run a real risk of having it blow up on you, defeating your intent to keep it quiet. Sometimes the best action is to do nothing, and let it blow over.

I wish it worked the way you said, but the Streisand Effect is a myth. If you've worked in customer service, public relations, as a manager, you know that 99% of the time when something is suppressed the problem goes away.

It's just as true from the opposite point of view. If you're a customer, client, or user, and your complaint or comment is suppressed, 99% of the time you do nothing or it goes nowhere.

Once in a long while, something blows up but it's not the rule.

So what you're saying is that the Streisand Effect is not a myth, it's just a rare occurence.

There's also the effect where the general public never notices the 99% that are suppressed, so the counter-examples to the streisand effect are hidden

I believe the definition of Streisand effect requires an addendum stating that it applies only when a large audience is involved.

Customers or clients are individuals who're bereft of the social connections that'd provide solidarity and encourage them to follow-up on their complaints unlike that provided by a larger audience. Furthermore , clients are just tired of dealing with what is often BS from the customer-care dept. As they try to suppress the complaint and therefore prefer to take the easier route which is often to just switch their services. Furthermore, I'm not even considering perseverant personalities who burn brighter when someone tries to suppress the bonfire by blowing at it.

Wouldn't the Streisand Effect require that the government asked twitter to shut the account down, rather than just reveal the identity? What suppression is happening here (beyond wild speculation)?

Striesand Effect is about censorship/exposure and is not relevant to this case which is about seeking the identity of the poster presumably because they are a federal employee. It doesn't seem like they're trying to do anything quietly, just get information for now.

Are you being sarcastic? They weren't going to find out who it is and sit on their hands. They would have fired them.

Trump has countless vocal detractors. Trying to silence a solitary one seems pointless, though I wouldn't entirely put that past this administration.

Am I misreading Streisand effect? Trying to prevent a fact from becoming well known causes it to become well known. The general message "Trump does bad things" is not a secret.

is it pointless? It sends a message that others that do this WILL be unmasked, fired, and possibly have their lives ruined.

fewer people will do this if they see that there are real consequences to dissent.

Suppose that were true. Then they would want to conduct this as publicly and noisily as possible in order to propagate that fear. Which would be counter to what Streisand Effect suggests.

You'd want to do this loudly enough that other dissidents hear and are afraid but not so loudly that other citizens get word and potentially join the dissidents' side. You don't want a public lawsuit. You want Twitter to silently hand over the data and for the last tweet from the account to be "Got fired today :(".

The core idea of the Streisand effect is when someone's response to criticism backfires and brings much more publicity to the criticism.

I guess if you truly believe the government was "just asking questions" or honestly investigating a crime without the underlying motive of hushing a pesky critic, then it wouldn't be an example of the Streisand effect.

And while apologists may bring up the Yiannopolis case as an example of hypocrisy, let's keep in mind that Twitter is free to censor speech how it sees fit. The US government is explicitly not.

Let's also remind everyone that his banning was not censorship. He sent harassment trolls after another user, and impersonated another user in tweets, both of which are direct violations of the Twitter ToS, and for that, he was banned.

He denies doing these things. Black Lives Matter has called for violence against the police on Twitter, but their account keeps chugging along.

Jails are full of people who swear they didn't do it, too. That doesn't mean that you should credulously believe them without doing your homework first.

Oh, so Milo was given due process in a court of law? Why don't people mention that detail?

My point was simply that there is no shortage of people claiming that some rule was unfairly enforced because the alternative is to admit they did something wrong. I used the most common expression of that concept but if you must, feel free to substitute, say, a bunch of divorced people in a bar ranting about how their ex caused 100% of the problems but fooled the judge.

Black Lives Matter isn't a single person.

He denies doing a lot of things that he has done. As for BLM, you're gonna have to show proof of that.


Well, I did some further research. It's best not to generalize, as I did, based on Google result headlines. What I found was that there were many examples of calls for violence on Twitter #blacklivesmatter. I also found several articles which laid out calls for violence on Twitter by Black Lives Matter "supporters". However, I did not find any calls for violence against police officers by the official Black Lives Matter Twitter account itself.

Please name a prominent left wing celebrity who was banned for similar behavior. That would make your argument much more persuasive.

Name a prominent left wing celebrity who did the same thing as Milo.

I implore you to respond to drakonandor's comment. Please just address it and help me understand how their point isn't valid instead of going silent, because I don't want to believe that people are actually willing to face blatant hypocrisy and simply shut their minds and mouths because it challenges their worldview.

Free speech doesn't exist in a vacuum, it's a cultural value. Once the cultural value disappears, so too will the first amendment, either by a new amendment or by judges raised in a society where wrongthink was censored on every platform they grew up with. Yes Twitter doesn't technically have to support free speech as a private corporation, but its censorship is nothing to celebrate.

I think it's important to remember the context in which the USA created its laws about free speech. In that time, it was your right to buy a printing press, paper, ink, movable type, and print your own pamphlets. The government was not to stop you from doing that. The government was not going to force you to print your neighbors pamphlets.

Your neighbor is Milo. Your printing press is Twitter.

It's much different now. It's a lot easier to get access to a printing press than to something equivalent to Twitter.

Everyone is mutually addressable in meatspace. If you're in the same space, and someone else talks, you have no choice but to hear it or leave the premises (note that here, the people who don't like the speech must vacate, not the people speaking unpopular things). There's a great equalizing power in that.

In ye olden tyme, you could walk up to your neighbor and give him a copy of your paper. He could throw it away or refuse to talk to you, but there was no [legal] way to totally disappear/silence you.

As for corporations, if they didn't like you, all they could do is print their own counter-arguments. Now the corporate entity can effectively disappear you and cut you off not only from the larger world, but your personal social graph.

This is particularly insidious when it comes to the practice of shadowbanning (and I'm speaking in general -- not trying to start a debate as to whether Twitter engages in this or not).

It is actually much much much easier to start something like Twitter than it ever was to buy your own printing press, run it, and distribute its pamphlets. The analogy is whether or not it was easier to get access to the Philadelphia Gazette's printing press (or whoever was big back then), or to Twitter. Clearly, it's still easier to get access to Twitter, but similarly to the Gazette, they can decide not to print and distribute your pamphlet.

And if they did agree to print your diatribe against the President of the day under an anonymous byline, they sure as hell would have claimed the right to not release your name to the government.

I know that's the analogy people make, but it doesn't hold up.

Newspapers were hawked by criers in the street, or sold at stands directly adjacent to competing newspapers, or delivered to your doorstep where the other guy could place his competing paper right next to it. All the conduct was in the real, person-to-person world where every physically able person has the same access.

That access is completely non-existent in cyberspace; the user pulls only what he wishes to receive. In the physical world, the user receives pushes from everything in his environment.

Twitter is not a publication, but a piece of telecom infrastructure. People do not go to Twitter to see what Twitter thinks. They go to Twitter because they believe Twitter will successfully carry the communication from the people they trust and want to listen to.

Is it equally OK for the phone company to kick you off and take your phone number because they didn't like what you said through "their" telephone infrastructure? What about your ISP kicking you off because they don't like what you're posting over "their" pipes? If you don't like it, you can go to another company, or heck, even start your own, right?

Not only were newspapers publications with a monolithic, easily attributable point of view, but newspapers did not have circulation that reached into the billions either (and if one newspaper did get that large, they'd have been broken up in antitrust).

Now, companies can alter or silence someone else's speech, and remove the entire audience, because ironically, the audience no longer needs to go into the real, physical world that exists behind the keyboard to find out what's happening. They implicitly trust these platforms to present the information they request.

There are many big differences between cyberspace and physical space. We've made a lot of short-sighted policy by pretending there's a 1:1 mapping. Let's not keep that habit up.

You're proposing a lot of regulation that I'm personally not interested in.

And why is it that Twitter has to carry that regulatory burden? At what point does a company/website become telecom infrastructure?

One of the issues with ISPs and other utilities is that they have been given local monopoly in exchange for regulation, so I would not say they are similar to Twitter. This is also why your statement "you can go to another company, or heck, even start your own, right?" is supposed to cut.

You're also not giving very much credit to the audience you speak of. The audience has always had to ensure their own information sources are good.

>You're proposing a lot of regulation that I'm personally not interested in.

I'm not really proposing any specific regulation. While it is telecom infrastructure, I'm not suggesting they must be subject to exactly the same regulations as hard-line providers, and there are reasons to craft a different class of rules for them.

The point is that just saying "they're a private company, they can alter things and silence customers however they want" shouldn't work anymore.

>And why is it that Twitter has to carry that regulatory burden?

Because they're a massive communication platform that people depend on to accurately represent conversations. Why should Comcast or AT&T have to carry regulatory burden? Same reasons.

>At what point does a company/website become telecom infrastructure?

Whenever they act a carrier or intermediary in conversations not intended to go directly to/from them. If you're talking to someone else through something and trusting it to carry your communication, it's a telecommunication device.

Of course, there can be limits on when/where any potential restrictions should become effective.

>One of the issues with ISPs and other utilities is that they have been given local monopoly in exchange for regulation, so I would not say they are similar to Twitter. This is also why your statement "you can go to another company, or heck, even start your own, right?" is supposed to cut.

Whether the monopoly is imposed by fiat or occurs organically, it should still be recognized and addressed as a monopoly.

>You're also not giving very much credit to the audience you speak of. The audience has always had to ensure their own information sources are good.

Yes, but in the past, it was not really possible to shut everything else out. There was an opportunity for competitors to get their attention in the physical world where everyone in the same vicinity shares equal access. You couldn't get outside information whilst remaining cloistered up inside your house; you at least had to go to the doorstep or mailbox, where people could leave their own publications.

In cyberspace, you have a blank window until you explicitly request some content. There is no opportunity to present anything that the user doesn't explicitly pull, and then the user is pulling that data from platforms entirely under the control of a very small handful of corporations.

When at least 90% of people are getting their data from the same sources, it's reasonable for some controls to be in place.

This isn't new; until the early 00s, we had rules that prevented a single corporation from controlling too many media outlets in a specific market. Until the late 80s, we had the Fairness Doctrine to ensure that controversial public issues were presented fairly.

If those controls were needed to help control broadcasters whose range was 50 miles, how is it absurd to suggest similar things apply to Twitter/Facebook whose range is infinite and whose user base reaches into the billions, an appreciable percentage of all humanity?

There is rightly a very high bar for a private entity to be regulated as a public utility, and definitely Twitter does not meet it. Twitter has nowhere near a monopoly on "the communication from the people they trust and want to listen to", or any structural advantages that would lead to one. The internet has an extremely broad and diverse range of venues where folks can make their voices heard. If that weren't true, I might have some sympathy for your argument, but as it is, I think it is very misguided.

Nothing stops you from making your own website now and distributing it. Indeed, there are entire portions of the internet devoted to giving people like Milo a platform.

I can't edit my post now, but the original intent was to point out that Twitter does not have to publish Milo according to my understanding of the USA free speech laws and how they would analogously be applied.

For some reason, it seems like most people interpreted this the other way around.

No, Twitter is your neighbor's printing press. Your neighbor doesn't have to let you use it.

That's what the GP said, just the other way around.

Give me a fucking break.

You're free to move on to another platform to "express" yourself if you feel the need to. There is no shortage of sites dedicated to reprehensible content. A whole World Wide Web full of them! If you don't find one you can even start your own! You've never been able to go to someone else's property to express yourself in ways they don't agree with. They would throw you out. Nobody is forced to host unwanted guests.

IRL everyone censors themselves. I don't say what I think of my in-laws in front of them, I smile and nod and limit my exposure to them to a few hours less than once a year to keep face. Later I go to a friend's house to bitch about them. This is how a functional society works.

The idea you ever had some sort of right to use a private platform to broadcast any random garbage that comes to your head at the time is just absurd. We never put a cultural value on random mouth diarrhea. We are polite in some company and sometimes say controversial things in other company. That's a cultural value.

Having non-mainstream discussion in non-mainstream places and business restricting activity that's bad for their bottom line and/or interests is not an insult to culture, it's normal social interactions.

Personally I like moderation/censorship and it's even necessary for a functional community, otherwise all forums would degrade to the lowest common denominator, spam, memes, and shitposts, given enough time.


Not much. Probably not. I don't know the particular instance because I don't follow US Twitter politics that closely. First time I heard about M. Y. was when he has blocked from giving speech at some college campus.

However, as a general argument, things that are cultural values include 1) trusting people to recognize the few who say stupid things by the virtue of those things being stupid and wrong things to say, and 2) in the public sphere of life the disputes are to be resolved with discussion. Words either fought with words, or ignored for their sheer stupidity, not by removing the words from the arena. (And Twitter is big enough that it counts as a "public sphere". It resembles more a public park where people can yell at each other than a newspaper.)

In general, it is about respect: that one respects their fellow humans to believe that there's enough civilization in left in humans that the civilization will prevail if one acts civilized. And these values can be furthered only be leading by example, because you can't make people into some mold, you can only make them realize who they can be.

Now, of course the line between free speech and speech that can't be allowed constantly muddy: one is not allowed to yell "fire" in a crowded theater, one is not allowed incite people to commit crimes. But the culture where people are allowed to say stupid and wrong things is necessary for a liberal democracy, and it does not hinge only on what kind of censorship government enforces. Why, history has plenty of examples where the government only quietly nods in the background when the private individuals enforce the censorship.

But this is a tangent to the main topic. From what I read, in this particular case Twitter is for once doing the right thing by fighting this order. It might look like somewhat hypocrite in the process of doing so, but that does not matter: While it's bad for the culture if Twitter shuts people down because that kind of thing slowly erodes cultural values of free speech, it's by a magnitude worse if the government does it as that could not only erode but crush those values into pieces.

Free speech is the cultural value.

Popular speech has never needed protection, true moral courage is in defending the right of people to say what one considers vile.

There is no moral courage in defending people who advocate for destruction of others' liberties or lives. Why should others suffer existential anxiety so you can feel good about your inclusive attitude to speech while doing nothing to uphold their safety?

Which is where the "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" quote comes from. But I never believed the people who spread that quote.

I'm sorry, but I see no moral courage in defending racists harassing someone. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Well maybe you'd like the first amendment to be removed? Just because something has no cultural value doesn't stop someone, in this country, from having the right to say it. That's the beauty of our country. We can say great things, boring things, vile things, agreeable things, dissenting things and it's all protected. You remove protection for one, and you risk losing all of it.

I agree it's within Twitter's rights to censor the data flowing through their own platform, it's fairly impossible to argue otherwise. That said, I think speech should absolutely be protected, even for racist dickheads. Otherwise, who decides what's "right" and what's "wrong?" Some government committee? A handful of corporations? What happens when your opinions are suddenly unpopular? Whoops, should have defended (or at the very least accepted) the idea of free speech for all people and ideas.

I don't see that defending the right to free/unpopular/hate speech is the same as providing a platform for it.

A grocery store owner might not want anyone to stand in their store screaming epithets about black people, or ranting about Trump, or Clinton, or whatever. That doesn't mean the store owner believes these things should be blocked, just that they should be done somewhere else.

Incidentally, California state law allows people to collect signatures and get their message out (as long as they don't disturb the peace) in any public place, and includes grocery stores in "public place."

I remember seeing people collecting signatures at the mall when I was a teenager. The mall always posted a professionally printed sign saying, essentially, "these people have a right to do this, but we don't agree with them and we ask you to ignore them."

> Just because something has no cultural value doesn't stop someone, int he country, from having the right to say it.

Nobody is denying them that right. You don't have a right to a twitter account. If someone won't allow you to post on their website, you're free to post it on your own website. That's free speech.

It says something about the platforms integrity if it only silence one side of the equation even though it might be its right to do so.

> It says something about the platforms integrity

And? I don't have a stake in the integrity of twitter or any other private business. If I don't like the product, I don't use it, same as any other business. Frankly, my default assumption regarding any business is that its integrity only goes as far as it affects the bottom line, and that has proven to be true with pretty much every business I've encountered. None of this has anything to do with free speech.

Your right of free speech ends at the point where it reduces my safety. We do not have unlimited rights of speech, and for good reason. To paraphrase Justice robert Jackson, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

Speech != action.

"Well maybe you'd like the first amendment to be removed?"

See, this is what I'm talking about. I said I see no moral value in racists harassing people. And make no mistake, the topic we were discussing is exactly that. Racists harassing someone on a private company's platform. And now you're trying to make it like I want the 1st Amendment repealed. Despite the fact that Twitter is not bound by the 1st Amendment, nor have I called for anyone to be jailed.

"Just because something has no cultural value doesn't stop someone, in this country, from having the right to say it."

No, but that thing being harassment, which the event in question absolutely was, does stop you from having a right to say it.

"We can say great things, boring things, vile things, agreeable things, dissenting things and it's all protected. You remove protection for one, and you risk losing all of it."

I do not agree in the slightest. I'm pretty sure Twitter can not allow hate speech and harassment on their private platform, and free speech would be absolutely fine. There would be no chilling effect whatsoever.

"That said, I think speech should absolutely be protected, even for racist dickheads."

And I believe they have absolutely no right to harass another user, which is what we're talking about.

"Otherwise, who decides what's "right" and what's "wrong?""

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that advocating for the genocide of an entire people falls very squarely within the "wrong" category, with absolutely no risk of any slippery slope.

"What happens when your opinions are suddenly unpopular?"

I don't call for the genocide of an entire people, and I don't make racist remarks. I'll be fine.

"Whoops, should have defended (or at the very least accepted) the idea of free speech for all people and ideas."

Yeah, no. I'm still never going to defend or accept the idea that harassment should be tolerated.

The topic is not moral value. The topic is freedom as an individual to say and think what I wish within the eyes of the law. When a special interest of people decide what is right and wrong in the eyes of the law, it becomes well... the law. If the law is "you may not verbally harass someone" then what is the interpretation of what verbal harassment is? What is sufficient harm to a victim that would justify legal action? What is the legal action for verbally harassing someone (not in a workplace but in a public setting).

Some sad news for the social justice crowd... these types of internet harassment problems are simply not that important to enough people, and do not cause enough harm for laws like this to be enacted or even seriously considered on a federal or state level. Corporations like twitter can do as they wish, and will be scrutinized for censorship by all Americans who value their first amendment right.

Who...surprise...are the majority! The united states has made its military so strong and has armed itself to incredible levels of overkill just to protect these rights from foreign powers who disagree. That's not just coincidence. The people who founded this country, as well as the ones who now live here clearly want and value those rights and freedoms. So much so, they are willing to die in massive numbers for them. That's almost the opposite of genocide.

>What is the legal action for verbally harassing someone

There is no 'legal' action. There is Twitter's right as a private entity to enforce its property rights. I can't tell what's causing this irrationality and whataboutism.

Good grief, what a bunch of self-serving piffle.

Good grief, you've been dropping insulting comments on an internet forum for almost 8 years.

Great points, and as short as your comment was, I somehow missed the distinction between right to free speech and right to harass people. I do think that line is, also, a bit of a gray area.

I also have to admit, I don't know exactly what happened with Yiannopolis' account (seemingly removed for violating TOS, although the alt-right seems to cry "censorship!!").

I think after reading your response, while I share your views on a lot of things, I still think things like racial cleansing should be protected speech, slippery slope or not. I think the people who subscribe to these ideas are vile people, but I do think they have the right to express their ideas, whether or not I want to hear it.

Everyone agrees they have a right to say it. They can buy a domain name and a hosting account and go just a crazy as their racist little selves can be.

Both the alt-right Milo crowd and I agree on that. I also think that Twitter has the legal and moral right to say whatever they want to publish on their own privately owned site. However, the people who most cry about the "censorship" of Milo disagree here. They grudgingly admit the legal right exists, but believe there is no moral right to control what I publish. By giving you an account, they hold that that right has been taken away, and that ethically, you can prevent me from exercising my right to speak as I want on my own site. How am I the restrictive one here?

How come? It's outright dangerous to do that, so if you do, it does require courage :)

If people only said nice and agreeable things there would be no need for the first amendment.

Why should Twitter be coerced into publishing racist tripe?

Why should AT&T be coerced into allowing racist phone calls? Why should ISPs be coerced into hosting racist web sites or allowing racists to download racist content?

The distinction between telecom infrastructure and Twitter/FB/Google is becoming less and less clear by the year.

Your analogy is absurd. Social networks are nothing like telecom at all.

It's more like GoDaddy or NameCheap refusing to host stormfront.

If GoDaddy was the only DNS provider, would you feel the same way? At what point does the government need to step in and say the Constitution applies here?


In an environment where law, custom, or technical challenges makes it difficult to silence dissent you can speak out against popular injustice as well as voice unpopular racist opinions.

There needn't be any cultural value in the content of the speech - who claimed otherwise?

Are you implying that only speech that has some "cultural value" is to be free?

What value does Leslie bring to the table with all the racist whitehate speech?

[Citation Needed]

Use a credible source, not one that isn't above photoshopping tweets.

"Lord have mercy...white people shit"


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


"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!!"


None of the tweets were photoshopped.

Leslie Jones is racist, period. She is worse than Milo, but she is allowed to stay on twitter.

She even boosts about it:

"You guys are giving him to much energy. I was done the day I blocked him & got his ass banned. Been done and moved on. He has no space here!"


So stop with 'use a credible source' when these are pulled from her twitter account. There is no need for a credible source.


Even breitebart links directly to her tweets.

Lets also keep in mind that hypocracy is irrelivant to the merits of a position, or a point being made.

If a smoker tells you smoking is bad, is he wrong?

One of the oldest tricks when somebody does something you dont like is to point out what an awful hypocrite they are, even when its only tangetial, or unrelated entirely.

I would think Twitter can censor how it sees fit about as much as a baker can make deals as they see fit. But apparently I'm wrong and it makes no sense to me.

Well, you are logically consistent. The caveat is that society, invested with the power to regulate behaviors, chooses to regulate certain types of behavior deemed "discriminatory" towards "protected classes".

This is generally because there is some historical precedent showing that if you don't have such laws, some groups of people will treat other groups of people as less-than-human. Additionally, society believes that it is in the general best interest if such treatment is minimized.

You may disagree with what counts as discriminatory or which classes should be protected, but I hope this at least makes some general sense.

It doesn't make much sense at all, precisely because people disagree with what counts as discriminatory. Letting society arbitrarily decide what behaviors they like and don't like regardless of whether or not someone is being actively, materially harmed is the same reason you end up with sodomy laws (and then society does an almost complete 180 a few decades later).

While I agree with the premise that societal restrictions on behavior might be improved if they involve tests for harm, the particular constraints you disagree with exist precisely to prevent material harm.

Anti-discrimination laws are built on a history of groups being excluded from access to housing, loans, schooling, contracts, etc. I don't think it is hard to see that depriving certain groups of access to the instruments of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness causes material harm.

Where were you when this thread started?

Why are people trying to twist this into a partisan issue?

Both sides agree that political speech is too censored. Agreeing is good - it gives us common ground where we can make progress instead of fighting forever.

Unless you're more interested in the act of fighting than making progress.

If the government can demand records for "an investigation to ensure compliance with duties, taxes and fines and other customs and immigration matters", they can demand records for anyone else with similarly vague justifications. It's fortunate that there are organizations like Twitter willing to take a stand against it, I guess many others would just hand over the data.

There are legitimate, appropriate ways for the government to subpoena, court order, and issue warrants for certain records from social media like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and HN. For some insight into this process, Reddit just published their 2016 Transparency Report:


They complied with some 60% of them, finding the others invalid (and, notably, not being proven wrong in that regard).

It's shocking to me that agents of the government so regularly abuse the trust placed in them to make illegitimate requests of these corporations.

Few people actually gets punished for abusing public trust so it really shouldn't be much of a surprise at all.

On the one hand we live in a big brother dystopian society where government is plugged into the internet backbone, has backdoors into all software and hardware, and knows everything being said by anyone, and on the other, they can't find a Twitter account's email, whine to Apple about a locked iPhone, online banking by regular people on virus machines (PC's) never gets hacked, and we only get celeb nudie drops once a decade - are we really losing the security war that bad?

“The government” isn't a single group of people. It's entirely possible for the intelligence agencies to be simultaneously sucking up a lot of data but not sharing that data with civilians in a separate agency. From what I've heard, that's expected because there's a cultural expectation that they're not involved in domestic politics.

I hate to say it, but; "Too Soon"

While I am totally on Twitter's side in his case, anyone who thinks Twitter is some sort of believer in free speech hasn't been paying attention the past couple years. Free speech isn't a core value at Twitter, it's a shield to protect their business interests.

I think it sometimes gets lost that there's a difference between being harshly critical of another group's opinions, and threatening or harming another group. There are multiple ways in which they're different, and they're not both free speech (IMO).

Indeed. I believe that those who deliberately conflate the two do so in order to restrict legitimate (if often vulgar or hateful) speech.

I believe the opposite, that so many who deliberately conflate the two do so to make it easier to do the second by trying to frame discussions in terms of the first.

I believe we're both right :) Seems to be a strategy employed by both sides.

In other news, Twitter has been banning trump-supporting accounts left and right, without much uproar.

Waiting for a trump tweet, bashing twitter...

Good lord, I am surprised they haven't disabled realdonaldtrump over the course of this election and presidency. Not to ruin the attention or users it draws, but just because they can.

That account, run by POTUS himself, is regularly cited on national TV and in major newspapers. Why would they ever do that?

Massive respect to twitter for standing up for privacy like this.

but when someone doxxes a trump supporter?

then Trump wouldn't be demanding their private information and if some other government was - I'd hope the same respect of privacy would occur.

Speaking as a latino, it's funny that they defend this account but ban stuff like @PolNewsNetwork1.

Also funny I have to clarify that I'm a "minority" or I'll be attacked as a racist xenomorph mysoginist accountant bioslug edgelord.

Let's not paint this as Twitter defending civil liberties.

There's a difference between banning an account for TOS violations and complying with a legal order to unmask an anonymous user to a law enforcement agency. Not sure why you would try and conflate them

The conflation between the two is happening throughout the comments for this story. It would take such a complete misunderstanding that I can't help but think these people aren't actually confusing two fundamentally different things and are just biased to the point that they can't think critically and are reaching for anything no matter how ridiculous to paint Twitter in a bad light. But perhaps I'm missing something that's obvious from their perspective.

This precisely. What is going on in here? This story has nothing to do with Twitter banning certain accounts, so why is half the discussion about that?

Because much of politics is circular and virtue signaling is just as important to the libertarian-leaning HN population as it is to the 'snowflakes' that they loathe.

Shutting down an account != revealing personal information, either.

> I have to clarify that I'm a "minority"

lol. This is the internet. People should really not judge differently based on the claimed position of the poster because of how easy it is to lie.

Good for Twitter.

The law and the right thing are not always the same. I personally prefer to do the right thing and $#it the law. Especially if I'd have the power to do like twitter does. Law is decided by stupid people (eg Trump) for stupid people (his voters).

My thinking in each and every case like this:

- official statemen: "no no no" - "here is the data" (behind closed doors)

Then all they'll do is find a reason to have it subpoenaed.

This is great. Although part of me has a desire for the person to be outed so Trump can lose yet another horrendously baseless first amendment lawsuit.

Hopefully a lot more visibly, this time.

"Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it." --Einstein

Not a fan of Twitter, but kudos for doing the right thing here, whatever their motivations. Free speech is being attacked by the far right and the far left it seems these days. Lets keep this thread on the rails a bit and thank someone for taking the high road, no matter how expected it should be.

I agree with them for not removing this person. Twitter should be a free speech platform. Unfortunately they've proven remarkably inconsistent in the application, and people on the right are going to call this hypocritical. While it may or may not be true it does, on the surface, appear to be that way. I hope that moving forward Twitter can aspire to be a true free speech platform where they don't remove anyone for criticism or parody of public figures, but I won't get my hopes up.

This is one of the major reasons not to use social media. The Internet as a whole has free speech inasmuch as governments protect free speech, but centralized social media has no such protections, and as unpopular opinions make sites unprofitable, they are incentivized to censor. The debate on social media is not whether to censor, but what to censor, and that's a huge step to concede just for a little communication convenience.

> The debate on social media is not whether to censor, but what to censor, and that's a huge step to concede just for a little communication convenience.

You could make the same argument about media in general. A newspaper runs the stories that make money and ignores the stories that don't. A TV station runs the programmes that make money and ignores the ones that don't.

Should a programme or journalist cause more trouble than they're worth, they will get axed. And/or their stories no longer accepted by the newspaper/TV network.

You are not wrong but the question isn't whether a platform is allowed to have a pov and an agenda rather it is should we trust our time, our lives, our stories to such centralized platforms.

Further should be trust people like twitter to keep our secrets when we could trust software platforms where nobody holds the key to giving our identities to a man in a suit that will do his best to ruin us.

> You are not wrong but the question isn't whether a platform is allowed to have a pov and an agenda rather it is should we trust our time, our lives, our stories to such centralized platforms.

Surely it can be inferred that the question of whether a platform has an agenda is relevant to whether they can be trusted.

Unfortunately it's a circular problem. Nobody is using those platforms because no one is using them. There is not a lot of benefit for me to switch to one of those platforms if no one I wish to follow or talk to is on them.

Please don't fall into the trap of calling the things that are banned just "unpopular". We're not talking about disagreements over tax policy. These things are harassment, they are threats of violence, and they are white nationalist/white supremacist garbage.

Does supporting Trump make you a white nationalist?

Considering everything that Trump said on the campaign, supporting Trump doesn't automatically make you a white nationalist, but it shows that, along with sexual assault, you're not bothered by it.

I'm not a trump supporter but I know some and this is simply false.

There are many people who supported trump who strongly dislike him, especially when it comes to racism, but found key aspects of Hilary's platform unacceptable and didn't see another choice.

It's quite possible to be bothered by both sides.

> you're not bothered by it

I'm genuinely curious, by what logic did you come to this conclusion?

A Trump supporter decided that those things, things which would have disqualified someone from running not long ago, were not deal breakers. Thus, they were fine with them.

Deal brakers? Curious concept. What do you do when all possible candidates have deal breakers?


No, if I walk up to you and grab you, unless you're successfully able to fend off my spontaneous grab, do you consider that you "let" me?

If they're only "letting you do it" because they know that they have no choice, and that even if they were to say something or speak out, they'd not get justice, but instead be negatively affected themselves, that is very much sexual assault.

Leaving aside threats of violence, which are properly illegal, what you're arguing for here is for free speech to be limited to the expression of ideas with which you agree.

This is true in the extreme but to reduce white supremacy to a mere disagreement is reductive and also willfully naive, I think.

And it's the extreme that matters. Free speech is a human right.

I don't think so. They have the right to not be arrested for spouting their trash. They are not entitled to a platform to shove that in everyone else's face.

I think we're in agreement here. My point was relating to the legal freedom of speech, not any obligation on Twitter's part re. the use of their platform.

Not at all. I'm not calling for the government to arrest white supremacists just for spouting their garbage. However, I am stating my support for Twitter and everyone else to be able to exercise their free speech rights to not associate with them.

But doesn't that mean twitter isn't a platform for free speech, since only twitter-approved speech gets through, and therefore can't defend free speech rights of its users since they do not exercise such speech on twitter?

Of course not. Twitter also has a right to free speech and can exercise that by telling whoever they want to leave their platform.

Strictly speaking, that's them exercising their property rights, not their free speech rights.

I'd say it's both.

Well yes - they're free to tell them to leave (speech), and free to compel them (property). Interestingly some theorists consider freedom of speech a special case of property rights.

In the case of a platform like Twitter, blocking certain types of speech is also a meaningful expression in itself. Telling someone to leave is a form of speech in itself. But telling (for example) many environmentalists to leave would also express a view on environmentalism because of the effect it would have on the overall conversion. Shaping the discourse on the platform is similar to a media outlet shaping the discourse it drives with selective reporting.

No. Because there is a world of difference between speech and harassment.

Not to mention, Twitter is a business. Their business depends on having users. If too many of their users leave the platform because they are constantly being assaulted by white supremacist drivel or being harassed by other users, then they're in trouble (kinda like they are now)

I'm still uncomfortable with the use of terms like 'assault' for protected speech, because I've seen people use equivocation between speech and assault to shut down free speech.

Meta: I'm _so_ twitchy about this stuff. I'm sorry if that's lead me to read your posts less charitably than I should :(

Sorry, I must have misread your post. I thought you were lumping "garbage speech" in with threats of violence, which are illegal.

Yes, it's Twitter's platform, and so entirely their choice whose speech happens there.

    > Not a fan of Twitter, but
Aside, why do people write this kind of thing? What does it clarify?

It's not like you're taking a controversial stance here. In fact, you're taking the same one as the article and the rest of our echo chamber.

I don't unconditionally hate Twitter either, but I don't try to get a cookie for it.

Guaranteed way to generate more upvotes for their comments on HN and Reddit. It's even more effective on HN.

I mean, haven't you noticed people do it IRL? "Look none of us like ____, but we gotta admit, ___! Amirite? Amirite?"

EDIT: Basically, what stagbeetle said, but you just say it all the time whether or not it's true.

I believe it's in the name of full disclosure.

Opinions for, by those against their topic, are usually valued higher than those for, by those in favor of their topic. It's more likely to be grounded in reality.

Why not just add it to every post?

    > Disclosure: I usually hold the opposite viewpoint
    > of the one that I just expressed.
Does it make all of your opinions hold more weight? Or is it, in fact, meaningless?

Maybe because 'opposite' is not an accurate statement, when the issue isn't a simple dichotomy.

In fact, one reason people might make these caveats is an attempt to ward off those people who seem to think every issue is an absolute dichotomy, and respond on the basis of that fallacy. I can't say that it is a very effective tactic.

Normally (dis)liking an entity is not "the opposite viewpoint of the one I just expressed". That's reductionist BS.

It would only be meaningless to put similar language on every post because you would presumably be lying. Is the distinction there not obvious?

meaningless and contrived if you ask me

Such lines are usually followed by the opposite view..

Not a fan of X, but <something good about X>

Don't mean to be rude but <something actually rude>

I'm not saying X is right but <something right about X>

This is internal noise that the writer spills out. There's no need to write these things.

Here's the kicker: I think it will rain tomorrow. The I think is unnecessary, you're saying it because you're thinking.

"I think" is a modifier on certainty the way it's normally used, not merely redundant information (as the literal reading suggests). It is generally used when the person isn't certain.

Similarly, all of the phrases you mentiom carry information about how the comment should be interpreted.

Not a fan of X: I'm generally biased against X, so my opinion they did well here carries extra inferential weight.

Don't mean to be rude: I don't know how to say this politely and request that you "iron man" the question or statement. There are arguments about if you truly need to say such things, but I'm generally on the side that rudeness is better than censorship.

I'm not claiming X is right: I explicitly disclaim a typical inference one would draw from making an argument that something about X is correct.

What you see as "noise" are inclusions of internal probabilistic weights, parse requests, other meta-comments, etc.

I think it's because the person is emphasizing that they view something in a positive light in spite of a generally negative opinion of the entity doing the thing. I say "I think" to emphasise that something is my opinion in contrast to a fact read somewhere.

Nah, sorry. Too much black-and-white thinking. The "I think" is not unnecessary in general. There are definitely situations where it makes clear on what grounds a conclusion is drawn.

Just like the original statement: "Not a fan of twitter, but..." might be seen as a side-note and unimportant to the main point, but it certainly adds information.

It's because of political tribalism. They want to appear impartial while still maintaining they're part of tribe X.

I will reserve my kudos and thanks, of course its easier if you take the high road when the account concurs with your political views. If they can take this road, esp. when they oppose those political views then respect, kudos and thanks will be showered.

They still have nazis on there, is that not tolerant enough for you?

Not only that, many of the self-titled nazis have verified accounts. Twitter is remarkably broad in support of political speech, even that which is against its values.

In 2010, JA/Wikileaks were Saints of the Left, until they went rogue in 2016 with DNC leaks. I would reconsider my stand if you provided a better example.

They already have.

I think it's because the political environment is so polarized that one must a) simply comment what an echo chamber expects to earn a cookie or b) nuance your answer or statements to make sure you are not blindly classified as "left-winger" or "right-winger" etc.

I mean, it's not like people want to risk being fired from their job just because they posted something in some random forum, but that is exactly what could happen in some quarters.

While HN tends to have really smart people voicing opinions, there are also people with knee-jerk reactions for whom anything that does not fit their view of the world require an immediate inquisition.

(Note how I started my last paragraph. I did not have to do that because it's obvious, but I have to because some people would then flame over the second sentence alone).

The comments in this thread are just as pathetic as I've expected from ycombinator as of late.

Just search for the term, "hate speech" and you'll see this pervasive cancer trying to erode the very fabric of our free society.

If anyone uses the term hate speech unironically, I'd like you to take a long walk off a short pier.

Just start holding C_Os in contempt in solitary. See how long twitter's resistance lasts.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14055481 and marked it off-topic.

What form of organization do you find legitimate?


Anarchism is an organization? Anarchism is a contradiction: without organization you can't stop somebody from establishing a government, and with organization you've established a government.


Also have a track record of protecting users from shady subpoenas



Please don't complain about downvotes or make generalized claims about the community. Controversial and divisive threads are already on edge, so we have to take even more care to comment civilly and substantively.

You're confused. This has nothing to do with "free speech" rights. This is a confusion that many right-wingers seem to suffer from.

There's no "free speech" relevance when you act like an asshole, and people call you on it. It just means that you're being treated like an asshole should be treated.

Free speech includes being an asshole. HNs voting algoritym is popular speech however. Lets not conflate.

Free speech also includes calling other who are being assholes out on being an asshole, and choosing not to associate with them.

One is entitled to say what they want. One is not entitled to a platform to say it on, nor are they entitled to not have consequences of saying those things.

Free speech includes being an asshole and not being jailed for it; it doesn't include the absence of other consequences.

Legally protected free speech is roughly as you describe. A platform built on providing free speech would be held to a different (higher?) standard. If twitter considers itself the latter would be a separate debate.

How was I being an asshole? I mean in my first comment. The second one was angry of course.

By trying to equate actual free-speech issues with a noted white supremacist and hate speech, maybe?

Hate speech is free speech. I think you're the confused one.

In the US, according to the constitution. But it is mostly not free speech in Germany, for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksverhetzung

No it isn't. Hate speech proposes reducing freedoms for other people on the basis of their essential characteristics rather than their opinions.

Not just right-wingers.

The United States government did not seek disclosure of the owner of that account. You are conflating two unrelated issues.

Twitter is no paragon of morality is what I'm trying to say.

Morality as you define it. What's funny is how all the free speech supporters were so quiet when Milo was banned from speaking at CPAC. Nobody has any principles, it's all political.

That wasn't' a violation of his right to free speech, so there's no reason anyone would be vocal about it. CPAC isn't the government.

Neither is Twitter. They are free to ban people who violate the ToS.

You appear confused about what is "moral", as well. Let me give you a hint: defending politically-protected rights to anonymously criticize the government is moral, and defending hate speech is not moral.

Please refer to this instructional cartoon: https://xkcd.com/1357/

I told before. Trump acts like Erdoğan.

Erdoğan stacked the institutions before he tried this sort of thing.

So Trump is like Erdoğan, but not as clever or as likely to succeed maybe?

Perhaps Trump will act as a sort of fascism vaccine in the long term.

Made from the same fascist fabric as the worst of the, causing society to develop the necessary anti-bodies and fight back, but weak enough to not do too much damage.

Or maybe one of those childhood diseases you fight off and develop immunity against, but leaves with with permanent scaring.

I hope so. The GOP wakes up, as if from a bad dream, and then runs Nikki Haley to prove that they can be the party of immigrants, women, and fiscally conservative socially-moderate people again.

The thing about the GOP is that even the promisingly normal among them get warped and mangled by the incentives of the primary process.

Bobby Jindal, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie all looked like somewhat reasonable choices at one point, until they had to go through the primaries and came out the other end as twisted, raving loonies. Nikki Haley looks fine now but there's no reason to think she'd fare any better.

That's been the one reason for a sliver of optimism so far. He obviously wants to be a strongman, but he's so incompetent that maybe he can't pull it off.

Really? I'm no cheering fan of either, but do not see the comparison. Can you elaborate?

Both of them take legal actions agains anybody who critize them. Even if it is against to right of speach. Even if both of them are wrong and the critisizer is right.

Accuse journalist that they lie and take legal actions. Even if the journalists are right.

Would HN be so proud of Twitter if they had refused to disclose the owner of an alt right account?

Yeah seriously, when it's "their guy" Obama, HN is totally supportive of US government surveillance and retaliation against wikileaks, snowden, manning, etc. /s

Sort of. HN has moved in that direction more in the last few years when it became unmistakably obvious that Obama, on the most important issues, continued an ugly legacy that the US has made for itself over the past 60 years.

But that wouldn't happen. Twitter has a history of just banning/ignoring views that don't align with their own.

James Hetfield of Metallica said it best before he left the bay area "They talk about how diverse they are, and things like that, and it's fine if you're diverse like them."

They don't ban Richard B Spencer who is a nazi.

Has he treaded carefully on twitter avoiding breaking the TOS? I imagine that, a- with the Milo ban, they wait for you to do something arguably in TOS violation if they want to get rid of you.

Correct, Twitter bans people who violate the TOS.

Being a Nazi is allowed under free speech though. Suppressing Nazi speech is the same as suppressing a social justice warrior right? You can't pick and choose your free speech.

>Suppressing Nazi speech is the same as suppressing a social justice warrior right?

No, but only because "social justice warrior" is a blanket perjorative for leftists, feminists, liberals, and anyone else right-wing antisocial types find annoying, not an actual ideology that people identify with, like nazism or white supremacy.

You can't suppress "social justice warriors" any more than you can suppress "cucks" or "landwhales."

Are you implying that the terms 'Nazi' and 'White Supremacist' isn't throw around by left-wing more sensitive idealists as a pejorative for people that hold conservative values? 'SJW' is a synonym for far-left ideologues, just as 'Nazi' has been used to describe the opposite end of the spectrum.

>Are you implying that the terms 'Nazi' and 'White Supremacist' isn't throw around by left-wing more sensitive idealists as a pejorative for people that hold conservative values?

No. While those terms are sometimes used by the left as general insults, they also describe actual movements, political ideologies and identifiable ideas.

However, "social justice warriors" don't actually exist, and the only equivalency that can be drawn between the views of one and the other, in the relevant context of free speech and censorship, is a false one.

In the past some minority rights activists described themselves as "social justice warriors"; it's a genuine subculture. There are a handful of people who still identify themselves that way.

"SJW" is about as well-defined as "alt-right" is. I also see the term SJW used by people on the left to criticise what they see as an over-emphasis on identity politics.

But one term is to you, a blanket pejorative used by anti-social types, and the other is not?

>But one term is to you, a blanket pejorative used by anti-social types, and the other is not?

I didn't mention "alt-right" and neither did the comment I replied to. Maybe you're reading something into my words that isn't there?

I was asking you a question.

I think you're running up against the ambiguity of language in the definition of "speech." Is verbally ordering a hit on somebody speech? Obviously. Is it the same thing that the ideal of "free speech" seeks to protect? Obviously not.

So you can't just say "This is speech, therefore it must be free speech." Advocating genocide and harassing people in minority groups are different in a very salient way from saying mean things about a politician.

The question is not who is being suppressed, but who is doing the suppressing.

If US govt. wanted to get at a Nazi / alt-right account in the same way, it would have been just as much of a problem.

If you run a bar or cafe and someone is spouting racist crap, you can say "Free speech is great and all, but i'm not paying to host you and it's damaging my business" and kick them out.

In the US maybe, but not in Germany. "Free Speech" can mean different things in different countries.

The two are nowhere near the same.

Federal courts and the founding fathers would disagree.

In that the government should not punish you for espousing either one, sure. However, we're talking about Twitter.

>>Suppressing Nazi speech is the same as suppressing a social justice warrior right?

Nope, First Amendment does not protect hate speech.

You are making stuff up. "hate speech" is not a thing in the first amendment. Hate speech is protected. There are countless court rulings on this.

Exhibit A: "in 1977 a federal court upheld the right of neo-Nazis to goose-step right through the town of Skokie, Illinois, which had a disproportionately large number of Holocaust survivors as residents."

WP article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/201...

Do you have a source? I'd be surprised to hear that's the case. My understanding was the first amendment covered all speech.

You are right, "hate speech" was not the right term to use.

That said, there absolutely are types of speech that the First Amendment doesn't cover:


>>In this country there is no right to speak fighting words—those words without social value, directed to a specific individual, that would provoke a reasonable member of the group about whom the words are spoken. For example, a person cannot utter a racial or ethnic epithet to another if those words are likely to cause the listener to react violently.

As I understand it, "fighting words" is _very_ context-dependent and narrow in modern jurisprudence.

See https://www.popehat.com/2015/05/19/how-to-spot-and-critique-... and search for "Trope seven".

In particular, application of "fighting words" pretty much requires that the speaker and listener were in close physical proximity, such that a fight could actually occur. Not really relevant to twitter, for the most part.

It does cover all speech; racial and ethnic epithets are still covered, just not in a very specific context. Which never applies in Twitter.

The First Amendment does protect hate speech. However, Twitter is not bound by the First Amendment.

Cut out the persecution complex. People upvoting an article for being noteworthy doesn't mean they are "proud of" Twitter, whatever that means.

Probably. A lot of comments are focusing on the thin basis for the information request rather than the content posted by the account.

See my other comment here and tell me if you still feel the same way.

The one where you focus on content?

They already do. Stop pretending there's this mass persecution of alt-right people.

But they do all the time. Unless law enforcement forces them to do so for safety reasons, Twitter has, on multiple occasions, refused to release identifiable information to authorities about alt-right accounts. They would act the same way regardless of the content so long as the content wasn't threatening to someone's safety.

This is why we can't have (many) political articles on HN. I'd flag this as it's unnecessarily inflammatory but I don't want to do something like that when my judgement could be clouded by my own views.

I know I would. I would of any account under these circumstances. Where I draw the line is crimes that are not free speech, that a judge signs a warrant for.

I'm just glad they're fighting government overreach... You know since our elected officials seem incapable of it.

Yes, for me at least privacy is privacy no matter your political stance.


HN stands for freedom of speech. All attacks against that are condemnable.

HN does not stand for unrestricted freedom of speech. It’s a private platform with moderation policies that include downmodding comments and posts to lower their visibility, flagging posts to push them off the front page, and banning users.

And that’s why it works. And HN’s denizens are implicitly and often explicitly in favour of this.

HN stands for speech that is generally more free than, say, I would tolerate on a message board. But it’s not an absolute by any means.

Free speech is a great global idea: Somewhere on the internet, somebody ought to be allowed to rave about how the Negro is using rape to effect the genocide of White America. But free speech is not a great local idea: That raving doesn’t belong everywhere on the Internet.

Most people understand the distinction.

You put how I feel about this better than I possibly could have.

Surely not. HN is mainly center-left as far as I can see.

I think tech in general is much more center left than it used to be. Probably due to the fact it's now seen as more socially viable to be in it, and it's now seen as an acceptable career choice for progressive people from middle class backgrounds.

A lot of people here would probably read the "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal" story from the 1980s, and complain about all the sexism.

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