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Posts Tagged ‘twitter legal’

Should Twitter Be A Human Right?

We’ve all witnessed the important role that networks like Twitter and Facebook have played in recent world events. And we’ve also seen how quickly governments remove access to these networks when they threaten their survival, as well as the levels that people are prepared to go to get around these blockades (and even how the biggest players in tech have helped).

Four in five people around the world believe that internet access is a fundamental right. Some countries, including Finland and Estonia, have made broadband a legal requirement for its citizens.

Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), says that governments must “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water. We have entered the knowledge society and everyone must have access to participate.”

Few would disagree. But the internet as both an entity and concept is vast, and a fundamental right to access it as a whole is not the same thing as the right to access every part of it. And just how deep do these rights go – for example, is access to Twitter something that somebody in prison should expect? Or even demand?

After all, it’s not unheard of for prisoners to be using Facebook and other mediums to broadcast their message to the world. Right now, sure, it’s frowned upon, but as a society (certainly in the West) we’ve softened our expectations of prison life for all but the most evil of criminals. I don’t think anyone really likes the idea of Richard Ramirez having a Facebook page, but what about your more common or garden inmate? Should a guy doing six months for tax evasion lose all access to the social space, or is that excessive and unnecessary? Perhaps even cruel and unusual punishment?

Right now, I suspect that most people would feel that Twitter was a luxury, certainly for the majority of detainees. But times change, and much as everybody has a right to their one phone call, it’s not completely out of the realms of possibility that, somewhere down the line, access to social networks for prisoners will be fairly commonplace, albeit with inevitable (and necessary) restrictions in place. And there will always be exceptions, those that committed crimes so heinous that the very thought of them having any legitimate contact with the rest of the world would make us shudder.

Or will it? Rights are rights, after all, even for the most wicked of prisoners. And who are we to decide otherwise?

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Freedom Of Tweets: Does Twitter Need Policy To Protect YOU From Defamation?

Interesting piece over at the official Twitter blog about how they manage freedom of expression on the network (i.e., they don’t):

The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact. This is both a practical and ethical belief. On a practical level, we simply cannot review all one hundred million-plus Tweets created and subsequently delivered every day. From an ethical perspective, almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits.

Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users’ right to speak freely and preserve their ability to contest having their private information revealed. While we may need to release information as required by law, we try to notify Twitter users before handing over their information whenever we can so they have a fair chance to fight the request if they so choose.

Twitter has policy for what you’re allowed to do with your profile (see here for details), but as I’ve written before (over 18 months ago) they don’t seem to have published (or act upon) anything that deals with defamation. The upcoming lawsuit involving Courtney Love will likely expose this as a gaping hole on the network.

Let’s not forget that the vast majority of tweets are indexed on the major search engines, too, and therefore cross well beyond Twitter’s 200 million (ish) users and are, potentially, out there forever.

My guess? It might take another couple of celebrity lawsuits, but pretty soon that official Twitter defamation policy will be in place.

All of which begs the question – should a Twitter abuse team be enabled with the authority to remove tweets that cross a predetermined line? Or maybe we need a system where the users police themselves, perhaps with a variation on the +/- scoring mechanism used by many social bookmarking sites. If a given tweet breaches a negative threshold (or somebody complains directly) then Twitter’s abuse team steps in to investigate.

This isn’t about celebrities – they’ll have lawyers in place to handle this stuff, and you have to take a lot of it with a pinch in this PR-crazy world. Lots of ‘normal’ people stand to get hurt by baseless allegation and libel. I’m a huge believer in freedom of speech, but only if somebody is looking out for the little guy. I’m not convinced Twitter is doing enough in this area, and saying that they don’t have time to go through all the tweets sounds like an excuse, and isn’t really the point. Set up that abuse team and install a system where users can police themselves and let that become your filter. It’s a fine line, of course, but any community by definition needs to have some limits in place.

What say you?

Lord Chief Justice Approves Use Of Twitter In Court

Interesting piece in The Guardian.

The lord chief justice today opened the way for the reporting of some court proceedings by journalists using Twitter, texting and email, but made clear it was unlikely to happen where such use of social media could influence witnesses.

Media organisations and journalists can apply for permission to use social media on a case-by-case basis, but Lord Judge said it may be necessary to bar its use by non-journalists to ensure the “proper administration of justice”, prevent distractions in court and limit the potential for interference with courts’ own recording equipment.

Judge issued interim guidance on the use of social media pending a public consultation involving the judiciary, prosecutors, lawyers, the media and “interested members of the public”. The guidance applies only to courts in England and Wales.

This follows a decision to allow the use of Twitter during the bail hearing of Wikileak’s chief Julian Assange. The judge there decreed that journalist could “send messages if they were discreet and did not interfere with the judicial process”.

Prior to this, unauthorised use of Twitter could have resulted in contempt of court. Indeed, there is still an obvious risk of witnesses being compromised.

“Without being exhaustive, the danger to the administration of justice is likely to be at its most acute in the context of criminal trials, e.g. where witnesses who are out of court may be informed of what has already happened in court,” stated the Lord Judge.

Permission to use Twitter must be made by application and is granted on a case-by-case basis, but this is a very interesting precedent.

Twitter Files Domain Name Dispute Against TwitterSearch.com – Is Twittercism Next?

Twitter has filed a Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) against the owner of TwitterSearch.com, says TechCrunch and Domain Name Wire.

It turns out the owner of the domain name has been trying to sell the domain name for some time. Back in August a Domain Name Wire reader caught wind that the owner was trying to sell the domain name and let me know about it. Apparently the owner of TwitterSearch.com claimed “Twitter will buy it for a few hundred thousand dollars.”

A Twitter representative wrote back:

“I’ve been in touch with these people, and they’re very interested in extorting us and not very interested in working with us. Please regard their emails as spam and feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns.”

Now the company will get the domain name for about $1,500 in UDRP fees. So this case doesn’t necessarily mean people with twitter in their domain names need to run for the hills — although I’d recommend being careful if your product is related to the service.

Does this mean Twittercism is a potential target? Perhaps, at least ultimately. I have long considered that there’s a chance of this, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to get a letter through the post at some point. However, give that AllFacebook.com and InsideFacebook.com are alive and ticking and have been for some time, even as Facebook has become a globe-conquering powerhouse, I’m probably going to be okay. I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes and I’m not trying to extort any money. So I should be fine.

Unless, that is, Twitter starts to get really, really petty. Stranger things have happened.

(Hat tips: Dave Winer, Domain Name Wire, TechCrunch.)