The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today upbraided Twitter for censoring itself in Russia and Pakistan, stating that the company has stepped “down from the free speech party.”
The EFF’s argument is simple: Twitter’s decision to censor content on a country-by-country basis was the “least terrible option” available to it, provided that it only did so when the company was “compelled” by a court order in a country where the company has “significant assets or employees.”
In the case of Russia and Pakistan, where local censorship is now instituted by the company, Twitter does not have sufficient local presence to make presented court orders meaningful in the eyes of the EFF.
This makes the censorship in Russia (of a Ukrainian political account) and Pakistan (where takedown requests have ranged from porn to blasphemy) unreasonable according to the EFF, because Twitter’s lack of a local presence precludes it from the behest of the requests.
The EFF is blunt in its assessment of the company’s actions. Regarding the case of censorship in Russia: “If Twitter won’t stand up for political speech in a country where independent media is increasingly under attack, what will it stand for?” And Pakistan: “As disappointing as it is to see Twitter cave in response to pressure from the Russian government, it is even more alarming to see Twitter comply with Pakistani requests based on what [“Pakistani advocacy group”] Bolo Bhi describes ‘little in the way of due process.'”
For Twitter, a service that has done much good around the world by helping to unite protestors and allowing for rapid dissemination of information including dissent, to crack down on its regular users at the non-binding behest of repressive governments is disappointing.
There is a bitter irony of Russia censoring a Ukrainian political account, given that recent Ukrainian protests that drew Russian ire and later incursion used Twitter to organize.
TechCrunch has reached out to Twitter for comment on the presented criticisms.