Twitter Puts Its DMCA Takedown Requests Up For All To See

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Yesterday’s announcement that Twitter would be selectively censoring tweets based on country was not well-received. But part of that announcement was the assurance that the process would at least be transparent. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

They also mentioned that they were working with Chilling Effects to make notices and orders sent to Twitter publicly available. At the time of the post yesterday, the site wasn’t up yet, but you can now browse it at chillingeffects.org/twitter.

It’s a good thing, certainly, though not quite a successful saving throw versus the localized-censorship piece. The database has several thousand DMCA takedown requests right now, but is not quite up to date — it isn’t clear at what rate they’re updating the database, but there aren’t many from this month so it seems to be something less than weekly.

Browsing the listings is a good way to waste 15 minutes, looking at the different ways people tend to provoke a DMCA takedown request. There’s a lot of cricket being linked to, apparently. And there are the inevitable copyrighted avatars.

What’s interesting to me is that there are a number of requests that in themselves request dozens of tweets to be taken down; this one, for example, points out a number of pirated movies being linked to, and the accounts are clearly bots. The DMCA request is only for the movies the rightsholder is concerned with — which is at once both correct and perverse. The account only exists to link to copyrighted material and has done so thousands of times, but everyone involved would rather snip out individual tweets one by one. Talk about a Sisyphean task.

Presumably this database will also house the official requests by governments who wish to restrict tweets based on content. While most won’t agree with Twitter’s decision to accede to these repressive entities’ wishes, it can at least be hoped that it will be done so with maximum transparency. The best thing Twitter users can do, perhaps, is to make sure this database is up to date and reflective of the restrictions being placed on tweets. Until a solution comes along, reducing the harm this new policy does and making sure it’s well understood should take priority.