Probably sick of countless press emails asking for an official stance on the countless controversial hyper-mediated events like WikiLeaks and the Tunisan and Egyptian uprisings now being amplified through Twitter, co-founder Biz Stone and Twitter General Council Alexander Macgillivray have co-written the polemic “The Tweets Must Flow” essentially arguing that freedom of expression is a human right.
*“On a practical level, we simply cannot review all one hundred million-plus Tweets created and subsequently delivered every day.”
*“We keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.”
*“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.”
Stone and Macgillivray did not explicitly mention any one particular incident in the post but obviously hinted at recent news events with pointed language like “some tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country,” (Tunisia, Egypt) and “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” (which is exactly what the company did recently when the DOJ asked for data from WikiLeaks supporters).
Emphasizing Twitter’s transparency, Stone and Macgillivray state that Twitter has been submitting all tweet removal notices to @ChillingEffects which is releasing them through @ChillFirehose. @ChillingEffects is a project lead by the EFF, Harvard, Stanford and other universities meant to raise awareness of online rights and protections with regards to copyright issue, etc . They also mention that Twitter has a Twitter list devoted to “Freedom of Expression” which includes the ACLU, IP Justice and internet monitoring service Herdict.
Twitter’s Sean Garrett tells us that the post is the result of a year of mulling over important geo-political issues that Twitter is now an unlikely player in, “We thought it important for us to explain our principles for both big things like being blocked in China to much more specific decisions like a DMCA request over a single Tweet. Recent big global events vividly demonstrate the implications of this approach.”
Indeed, the Twitter legal team now lead by Macgillivray has found itself in all sorts of unprecedented legal situations as the service scales, anything from a Courtney Love libel suit to a subpoena from the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Biz Stone has written on Twitter and activism before, in response to Malcom Galdwell’s assertion that there is no such thing as Twitter activism (I can’t wait to see what Gladwell has to say about the past two weeks). And while this is the first time I’ve seen Macgillvray write on Twitter issues, something tells me it won’t be the last.