RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Gibbs writes: "In what can only have been a fit of corporate insanity, Twitter announced that it has the ability to filter tweets to conform to the demands of various countries."

File photo, Twitter homepage on computer monitor. (photo: Gallo/Getty)
File photo, Twitter homepage on computer monitor. (photo: Gallo/Getty)

Twitter Commits Social Suicide

By Mark Gibbs, Forbes

27 January 12


Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country - while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.

ith those words earlier today, in a blog posting titled "Tweets still must flow" the management of Twitter's went over to the dark side and may well have dug their own grave.

In what can only have been a fit of corporate insanity, Twitter announced that it has the ability to filter tweets to conform to the demands of various countries.

Thus, in France and Germany it is illegal to broadcast pro-Nazi sentiments and Twitter will presumably be able to block such content and inform the poster why it was blocked.

Quite obviously, Twitter's management believes that there is some kind of value in being able to filter in this way but given that, over the course of 2011, the number of tweets per second (tps) ranged from a high of almost 9,000 tps down to just under 4,000 tps, any filtering has got to be computer-driven.

So, consider this tweet:

@FactsorDie Nazi Germany led the first public anti-smoking campaign.

Could that be considered to be pro-Nazi? How will a program accurately make that determination?

What concerns me is that if the algorithm Twitter uses registers a false positive (i.e. determines that the tweet is pro-Nazi when it isn't) and the tweet has any time sensitivity to it then that attribute will be completely nullified by the time the tweet makes it out of tweet-jail if it ever does.

On the other hand if the software makes a false negative (i.e. determines that the tweet is NOT pro-Nazi when it is) then the filtering is useless and Twitter will be held accountable by every political group with an axe to grind.

Now it might be argued that some percentage of false positives or false negatives will be acceptable but what is that percentage? 0.0000o01%? That equates, at a minimum of 4,000tps, to 3,456 misclassified tweets per day or 1,261,440 per year!

And will the filtering software be able to detect irony and sarcasm? I rather doubt it.

And what about the fact that Twitter will be implicitly editing all tweets? Doesn't that attract legal issues in that they are taking on an editorial responsibility and therefore become a lightning rod for lawsuits?

I see Twitter's management having made a huge epic, mistake. In trying to appease the demands of political pressure they've dug themselves a huge hole that they won't be able to climb out of. The mere fact that they have published a blog posting claiming that they can filter seals their fate.

I really like Twitter; it's a unique and amazingly rich social platform but Twitter's management may have just diminished if not wiped out their edge and their global relevance.

You can't service all of humanity if you allow the needs of politics to triumph over the needs of the people. And if you can't service all of humanity, what is your relevance? your social media marketing partner


+28 # barkingcarpet 2012-01-27 12:12
Who needs privacy anyway, all we need is our cheap ass and non repairable products to consume and homeland insecurity to keep us safe.

Tweet tweet.

The jokes on us.

Why do WE go along with this B.S? Vote for me, I don't want the job, and somebody's got to do it. AND, I'll need all of you on my cabinet.
+40 # cordleycoit 2012-01-27 12:53
It seems when these techies come up with ideas after their great one they doom true innovation as quickly as they can. Free flow is about freedom. R.I.P.Twitter
+6 # RLF 2012-01-28 09:54
Techies are like the guys that invented the atomic bomb...they thought later about the implications of what they do. I wonder how much Twitter is charging to censor messages?
+38 # Adoregon 2012-01-27 13:14
From Twitter to twit.
+45 # Terrapin 2012-01-27 13:15
... so someone tell me how this different than GOGGLE caveing in to China's censorship of subjects it finds inconvenient ... like Tibet and the Dalai Lama.
+68 # John Locke 2012-01-27 13:34
Thats called Censorship, Now it begins in earnist... China is the main country that has been blocking social network comments. They have been successfully blocking it... But the US wants all mention of OWS to disappear, and the US Government knows any revolution will use this it now appears twitter has sold out...I wonder who received how much and from whom...Just another example of how easily everyone falls in line with what the government wants even though they know the government is corrupt.
+2 # Billy Bob 2012-01-27 13:39
All those people who complain about big government really can't complain about this. Afterall, in the end it's Twitter, a private company, doing the censoring.
+33 # John Locke 2012-01-27 15:20
Billy Bob: The government uses private businesses to do its bidding then gives them immunity, do you recall ATT and Verizon giving all our records to the government and the immunity they were granted from civil lawsuits...The Government has used Microsoft also with a back door in their software which the government can open at their discretion. The real problem is "business fear" of Government intrusion, if they won't go along they are investigated by every government agency and continually harassed. Or some crime is manufactured against them, and the media destroys whats left. So they find it easier to go along and get along...Hitler also used private companies to do his bidding, IG Farben, Ford, GM, ITT and Standard oil to name just a few...When their is collusion between a private business and government to censor, that can become a First Amendment problem, (a Conspiracy) But this administration appears to be all over eliminating our rights. We are so Enshroud is our daily life simply trying to survive that we aren't looking at What it will take for people to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
+13 # Billy Bob 2012-01-27 19:07
Good response. I guess I was just pointing out the hypocricy of people who complain about "big brother" when it's the government itself, but have no problem with it when a private company does the same thing. I didn't word it very well.
+25 # jon 2012-01-27 21:01
When you can't separate corporations from government, that is the definition of fascism.
+14 # John Locke 2012-01-27 21:42
It seems now that the latest news about twitter, is that they agreed to work with the US government to censor what the government does not want on twitter... now the plot thickens...
+2 # mwd870 2012-01-29 07:30
This seems pretty blatant, though tactics used against OWS make it believable. What is the source for this information and is this a policy the American pubic will aquiesce to without significant pushback?
+1 # John Locke 2012-01-29 11:18
mwd870: The Information comes from Foreign Media out of the UK
+1 # disgusted American 2012-01-30 19:30
That's what SOPA and PIPA are about. Twitter is probably a test run.

Same kind of stuff happened in Nazi Germany and whoever declined to do the bidding of Hitler, Himmler, the SS et al - well, sayonara.

America is now a full-fledged police state with the signing of the NDAA and SOPA, PIPA and Twitter caving into gov't is the next tightening of the noose around our necks.
+14 # Billy Bob 2012-01-27 13:38

i wouldnt mss twitter if it were gone brohan

peas out
+28 # DPM 2012-01-27 13:48's always for OUR benefit.
That's sarcasm, by the way.
+43 # Underledge 2012-01-27 13:52
One has to assume that every comment, message or site on the internet is watched by someone. To think otherwise is foolish.
+16 # John Locke 2012-01-27 15:22
Underledge: You are very correct, what you say is a real fact, thats why I always say be very careful....
+37 # Mike Farrace 2012-01-27 13:54
Yeah, this does seem colossally stupid if for no other reason than it gives a potential competitor an opening. I would love to say they will change their minds on this, but from the sound of the story the cat's out of the bag and it's probably too late to do that even if they wanted to.

And Terrapin's right -- it's no different than Google. I predict an emerging alternative technology very soon, one that is simple, non-profit, open source and part of the creative commons, unedited and maintained by volunteers in the spirit of OWS.
0 # disgusted American 2012-01-30 19:43
Sometime in 2010 or maybe early 2011, I read that Obama was working on a plan to give people one password to use for all online interaction including banking, emails, etc.

He said that it would be so much easier if people only had to remember one password as in: This is for your benefit.

It may be a gov't-issued password. Don't remember that part clearly. But even if it's not, WTF?

The article said there was a conference or meeting taking place in Sanford, CA or Sanford University with telecommunicati ons OR tech experts to figure out how this can be implemented.

Can't remember the details as you can see by my comment b/c was a while back and so much is going on, but I am not making this up.

Google may be helpful in finding out about this if it wasn't scraped off the Internet by the powers that be.
0 # Mike Farrace 2012-01-30 20:32
I would like to read that story.
0 # disgusted American 2012-01-30 21:50

Just in from a friend. Go to OpEdNews:

1/30/12 Big Brother Internet By Paul Craig Roberts

Read it all but halfway down is the cover up and what NSTIC really means.

America morphing into China begins with SOPA and PIPA billed by Congress to "prevent copyright issues." (yeah, right)

A friend where I live told me TV ads ran saying SOPA and PIPA are for protection against piracy of our info. (Did you take your stupids pill today?) Done b/c many calls rec'd against SOPA and PIPA so that vote was tabled until a later date which is soon.

There may be a Washington Times article re WH cybersecurity adviser and Commerce Sec'y Gary Locke drawing up Obama’s mandate for a nat'l Internet ID card. (I think Commerce Dept may be tied to Homeland Security.)

He wants passwords for every citizen to centralize personal info. Instead of logging onto whatever using separate passwords one has with each company or site, you'll have to use the gov't-issued password.

It's to make your life easier, don't cha know?

Beat 'em at their game. Stop banking, paying bills and buying online. Op Ed News story tells you that making everything be so convenient online was the way to get people hooked in preparation for the police-state Internet.
0 # Mike Farrace 2012-01-30 22:37
Well, it was a long story short on documentation. Roberts is enthusiastic and seems to have some good ideas, but he doesn't provide any documentation for anything, except for a few quotes of pure opinion by questionable sources. It's just a diatribe.
0 # disgusted American 2012-01-31 23:44

It's not short on documentation. He has mentioned NSTIC, for example, so does he have to put what this is in the article? Of course, not. He's busy telling you important info, and isn't going to spoon feed you. Do some looking on your own based on what he's telling you.

He has given readers a history of Internet use that started whenever up to where we are now which happens to be headed at a fast pace toward a police-state Interent.

For goodness sake, Google NSTIC and read about it. It's a gov't inssued password for everything you do. Read the third to last paragraph of my post to you above.

What is not good about most Americans is that they are curious enough to do their homework. They want everything fed to them and then all they do is complain.
+25 # Puck 2012-01-27 13:54
Captain Boycott report to facebook on the double!! Time for everyone to cease using Twitter until management comes to its senses!
+11 # aitengri 2012-01-27 14:05
Puck is unrealistic, but Farrace and Terrapin point to the solution. Underlying all is the juvenile bandwagon of little nerds full of "success" (new money) who have no depth of perception, nor social consciousness regarding their context.
+24 # JayMagoo 2012-01-27 14:14
Just in case nobody has noticed, filtering here in the good old USA is already going on. I was receiving MediaMatters, a watchdog news service that documents every lie told by Fox News people. Suddenly on July 21, 2010, I could no longer get MediaMatters on my Gmail account. I tried numerous ways to find out why. I am still able to get it on other email servers, so I can only conclude the the Right Wing censors persuaded Google that they should no longer carry MediaMatters. What Twitter is doing, caving in to political pressure, is an old story.
+3 # coati 2012-01-27 20:21
JayMagoo, yes and it's all enmeshed. bbc dot com would not allow me to post a reply with google url that had articles linking Bain Investments (Romney) with El Salvador death squad activity. (1207 urls by the way). There was nothing inappropriate. Moderators struck it out twice. I am no longer bothering with bbc. Blah blah blah.
+10 # GabbyHayes 2012-01-27 15:17
Someone else will come up with Twatter and tell the foreign (and US) dookies to bugger off. I think I would like to be better with privacy than twitter is. So a message is a message and if communists or baptists want to cut it off, they'll just have to sit there and hit the delete key a thousand time a minute. Looking for investment capital in Twatter. Who's with me?
-1 # KittatinyHawk 2012-01-27 23:31
Great username!
+8 # John Locke 2012-01-27 15:24
There is a solution, a co-op venture to set up a competitor to Twitter, there is enough of us here to actually do it, if we wanted to...
+6 # eden 2012-01-27 15:56
I believe that is already an Open Source alternative.
0 # Mike Farrace 2012-01-30 20:37
It's open-source, but it's owned by a for-profit company. That's fine, of course, because it's designed for companies, and maybe there's a way a license could be granted, etc. But it's not ideal -- it just doesn't cut the mustard for such an important piece of technology. The thing has to be as impervious as something like AA -- so simple and useful that no one can diminish it.
+8 # Richard1908 2012-01-27 16:41
'Twitter' is an unmitigated social evil. This example of computer manipulation shows how 'Twitter' can be controlled and censored by any government or corporate identity. If you wish to voluntarily surrender your last vestige of privacy and leave yourself wide open to all forms of secret surveillance, just sign up to 'Twitter'. If you are already a member, too late:
" You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave".
(Eagles - Hotel California)
+15 # panhead49 2012-01-27 17:17
Puck I agree - but I'd take it a step further - I HATE TWITTER. We have an entire generation that has no idea how to communicate face to face. It is very hard to get their attention and you practically have to set your hair on fire to keep it - eyes glued to screen and thumbs a flyin'. And they can only think in 140 count (is that the max # of characters? I have no idea) characters. The movie Idiocracy is starting to look like a masterpiece of cinema.
+12 # Buddha 2012-01-27 17:19
Just one more piece of the machine, the apparatus of the coming Police State. Notice all the efforts at both censorship and the ability to "shut down" websites the government determines should be shut down? Our Right to a "Free Press" under assault? On top of how now the government can incarcerate Americans citizens indefinitely without trial simply on "suspicion" of supporting "terrorists". This ain't going to end well. We had our Reichstag fire (9-11), and in our Fear and Stupidity, we signed away our rights. And now as the ruling elite feel threatened by the growing civil unrest due to income/wealth/p olitical-power inequities, they are going to bring out the mailed fist.
+7 # coati 2012-01-27 20:26
The American people WERE sold out in the first "Patriot Act". I dont feel like most of 'us' were in accord with it, however, we were totally unorganized then. There's a bigger Play somewhere, the smoking mirrors are deep: ACTA has been secretly being pushed along since 2008. These are some additions to your post. Thanks.
+7 # Left Coast 2012-01-27 17:41
This action should make the Chinese government in Beijing very happy. Oh wait, I forgot. Twitter is blocked altogether in China as is Facebook, and Youtube. What the hell was I thinking.
+4 # coati 2012-01-27 20:29
Right, we're okay as long as we're talking about our new shoelaces, maple bars, and latest bluelightSpecia l at some Chinese owned box store in a strip mall. ( ? ) .
+14 # soularddave 2012-01-27 19:57
Osmedoby iwll ifugre ohw ot egt rauond hte osftawre yb otomrrow ta hte aletst.
+3 # James38 2012-01-27 20:05
Great article. "Now it might be argued that some percentage of false positives or false negatives will be acceptable but what is that percentage? 0.0000o01%? That equates, at a minimum of 4,000tps, to 3,456 misclassified tweets per day or 1,261,440 per year!" ...and no irony etc. LOL. Truly a colossal blunder. However, there is nothing new about the technology. Many years ago the info leaked out that the NSA had a "keyword" detecting program that could be used on any and all phone calls at once. That certainly made me more aware of using words with more care for the context. However, on the internet, I decided long ago that when I have an opinion I think is important to share, I will do so quite clearly. We are all on the same little boat (Earth), so we have to learn to get along. I have no interest in using Twitter, but I admired its effect in Egypt and other places. (continued)
+3 # James38 2012-01-27 20:05
(I dislike the short limit, and that is also the one thing I dislike about the character limit here. I suggest it is 500 characters too short. Also, lately it has taken to telling me my comment is too long when it says there are still 14 or so characters left. That gets me mad.) (continued)
+3 # James38 2012-01-27 20:08
What worries me more is the world's religious fanatics resurrecting the Inquisition with junk like the Fatwah against Rushdie, the attacks on cartoonists, the pile-on of Big Jaw, and such abuses. That shows the large dimensions of the fight against censorship. I think we need to consider some sort of global line in the sand: You can believe whatever you want, but if you try to make me believe the same thing, you have crossed the line. We need to consider that any religious or political group that makes such demands has committed a universal crime. What will be the tool for enforcement? Derision from all directions? Instant public exposure of the perps in every media imaginable? That would require an interesting agreement among media publishers, but should be seen as a good thing by most. Dubious about the right-wing response, but some of them ought to get the idea.
-4 # KittatinyHawk 2012-01-27 23:42
How about we start some good ole witch fires and let the Cults dance like the poor women in the 1600 - 1700's did!
then there is dancing nooses or just follow good ole boys and get the guns out!

What these morons do not understand is...they are out numbered. Their fears were always there but the Panther movement, the Hippie Movement and their pretending to be Jesus they are the Mansonites. They are the Naziis, They are so swelled they do not even realize how unreal they are. Their Jesus is Greed, their lust is Killing.
I do believe they will be following their leaders and jumping off cliffs real soon or following Gingy to an outer space colony with Kirk. Let us hope the latter two are true.
I met some Evangelicals and they are democrats, against what is going on in Congress so perhaps the East Coast has some hope for their Faith. West Coast is just too bombed...too much testing out there, knew sooner or later it would affect them. Watch Out Japan, you could be facing the same, You do not want to Americanize...g et rid of those Western Clothes, really
+1 # barryg 2012-01-27 23:35
we;re talking about the govt behind the govt here and everybody acquiesces because life is precious especially when you are successful.
+5 # KittatinyHawk 2012-01-27 23:45
Personally I hate those places as much as I hate cell phones. So if they all take a tumble who cares? FaceBook already sold you all out, promised privacy and sold you and info to anyone.... I go there to say hi to couple ill friends but by the next hour I have so much junk, I keep my trips few and far between
+1 # sheeplady 2012-01-28 00:20
It's a free market system. If twitter can't serve us any longer, then we move "en masse" to a competitor. It is time for the corporations to understand that their jobs depend on the CUSTOMERS. If we are not there, they go bankrupt. We are the "job creators" and we have the power to shut down a business (exception=mili tary armaments industries only depend on Congress.)
+1 # Activista 2012-01-28 00:42
USA / ICANN has monopoly - control of Internet. Internet is centralized and easy to control.
other countries (China ... censorship ..)are trying to develop alternatives .. it will be interesting.
TWITTER filtering is stupid ..but not really significant ..
Long time ago at MS they started to filter "bad" words ... and they filter Cock .. restaurant in New Orleans.
There are much more significant issues regarding Internet ... Internet was never free
+2 # RMDC 2012-01-28 08:23
This is all fine with me. I hope Twitter does commit real suicide. Twitter was started up with CIA investment money and has always served as a tool of the CIA in its social organizing. But this is more likely the reason it won't be allowed to commit suicide; in a few weeks people will forget about the censorship and go back to using it in the normal bliss of ignorance.

Twitter is a key part in the move from the World Wide Web to the World Wide Wiretap.
0 # shortonfaith 2012-01-28 10:54
I now google will be changing their privacy policy. The new policy is about follopwing you around to every device you own & selling all of your information to anybody with $5.00 to give google.

There are other search engines out there.
+1 # bandz 2012-02-05 10:31
I've never understood why anyone with even a shred of self-respect would post anything on a site called "TWITTER!" The definition of "twitter" in my dictionary is: "a small, tremulous, intermittant sound; a light chattering; a light silly laugh; to talk in a chattering fashion; giggle." And to call the messages you find there, "tweets"!! A tweet is defined as "a small chirping note," I wouldn't want to have any comments of mine identified as "tweets" on a site composed of "twitter." So I never go there.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.