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[liberationtech] Independent UK Critic of NBC has Twitter account suspended after network complains

Maria Garrido migarrid at
Tue Jul 31 16:52:35 PDT 2012

Thank you for the interesting conversation! I am new to the list and really enjoying all the posts.

Regarding Twitter and its policy to suspend or not users – the twitter account of the youth movement in Mexico @Yosoy132 which emerged from a series of protests against the misinformation (or information manipulation) of the main media corporations in Mexico regarding the elections was suspended without any notice or explanation. This move from Twitter was highly suspicious – the account was suspended, very conveniently I must add, a month before the election and re-instated three weeks after. I contacted the members of the movement asking if they had received any explanation as to why their twitter account was suspended and they had received none after various attempts. It is difficult for me to believe that Twitter acted following its pragmatic policy – there is no proof of wrongdoing but there is also no evidence or explanation how the company simply follow its policy (silence nourishes doubt). The movement stopped using the twitter account and made its Facebook page the primary channel to communicating with movement members and supporters.

Considering the reasons why the youth mobilized against in the first place (against major mass media corporations in the country) and this arbitrary move on Twitter's side places doubt on the way the company implements its policy for suspending users.

As many of you pointed in previous posts, it is problematic to place our hopes for advancing democracy on corporate tools, however useful these are in enabling communication and mobilization. Democratic interests will, in most cases, be undermined if profit interests are at stake.

Maria Garrido
Research Assistant Professor
Technology &Social Change Group
University of Washington's iSchool<>

From: Simon Phipps <webmink at<mailto:webmink at>>
Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 4:15 PM
To: "Jillian C. York" <jilliancyork at<mailto:jilliancyork at>>
Cc: Liberation Technologies <liberationtech at<mailto:liberationtech at>>
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Independent UK Critic of NBC has Twitter account suspended after network complains

Thanks for that pointer - it didn't come up in the searches I tried.

While it would be fun to argue about whether "mentioned on some nutjob's web site that Google doesn't list" is a good definition of "public", I think it misses my point. That point is I believe Twitter already has an adequate and pragmatic policy and I've not seen a good description of a better one that takes account of their scale.

Their policy says:

  1.  Check if a complaint is in good faith (if not, or if complaint withdrawn, skip to 4)
  2.  If it is, suspend the erring account pending remediation
  3.  Check with the user for either good cause ("already posted" for example) or a commitment to not repeat
  4.  Re-instate user

It's no more reasonable to expect Twitter to exhaustively search the internet and make a judgement call on privacy before responding to every complaint they receive than it is to expect them to scan Twitter for violations. The fault in this case does not appear to be the Trust and Safety team's actions, which appear to have been conducted correctly (although perhaps slower than the lynch mob wanted). It's that a team working on their NBC account acted improperly.

In a world of dodgy corporations, Twitter is one of the very few that I feel I can still give the benefit of the doubt. I do hope that doesn't change; this incident shook my confidence in them for a while.


@webmink, +1 415 683 7660

On 31 Jul 2012, at 22:52, Jillian C. York wrote:

And just to be clear, Simon, this is where Zenkel's email address was found:

The post is fron June 2011, thus the information was indeed previously posted on the Internet before being put on Twitter.

On Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 2:48 PM, Jillian C. York <jilliancyork at<mailto:jilliancyork at>> wrote:
Mashable says it's 8 Google pages in:

Twitter's rules contain this sentence: If information was previously posted or displayed elsewhere on the Internet prior to being put on Twitter, it is not a violation of this policy.

If Twitter wants to remove that sentence from their rules, that's their prerogative, but until they do, they're full of it on this one.

On Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 1:47 PM, Simon Phipps <webmink at<mailto:webmink at>> wrote:
Where is Zenkel's e-mail on that page? I've yet to see a report that substantiates it was easy to locate on the web prior to this incident.

But more to the point, Twitter appears to be coming clean here. Their policy says a bona fides complaint is met with preventative suspension, followed by reinstatement after review and, if necessary, assurances. For an organisation dealing with approximately infinite transaction levels, that seems about the only workable policy.

In this case they assert that their NBC-attached team acted incorrectly by proactively reviewing traffic. They also imply that, had the Trust and Safety team been advised how the complaint arose, they would likely have acted differently. They have apologised for what they did wrong, left themselves free to continue to follow their (probably correct) policy and avoided commenting on the journalist's actual (borderline) behaviour.

Since I don't see it in the thread below, here's Twitter's apology, which is worth reading & re-reading to get the implications as well as the details:


On 31 Jul 2012, at 21:24, Bernard Tyers - ei8fdb wrote:

> Hash: SHA1
> Hi Jillian,
> Thanks for explaining the details. Pardon my language but...FFS. This is disgraceful.
> Adams used publicly available information like this: and Twitter closed his account?
> In which case, if I were Adams, I would release my legal attack hounds, and sue Twitter under what ever legislation they could.  Anyone from the EFF Legal want to comment?
> That is disgraceful. Another example of why I believe Twitters self-censorship "internal struggle" earlier this year was an easy out for them.
> I hope Adams doesn't take the usual "we're sorry" excuse thats trotted out.
> Bernard
> On 31 Jul 2012, at 16:13, Jillian C. York wrote:
>> Bernard,
>> Twitter's explanation was not that the statement was defamatory, but that Adams had posted private information.  The email address he posted, however, is not private: it is available on<>.  That's the entire case.
>> -Jillian
>> On Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 1:39 AM, Bernard Tyers - ei8fdb <ei8fdb at<mailto:ei8fdb at>> wrote:
>> Hash: SHA1
>> (Slightly devil's advocate/contrarian POV)
>> Interesting story, and Adams probably has a case but it never ceases to amaze me when people disconnect their "real world" brains from their "Internet" brains.
>> I would be the first person to complain if someone's free-speech was taken away, however, if Adams has said anything defamatory in his Twitter stream, then he is still bound by "real world" laws.
>> Just because I say something defamatory or libellous about person X on the Internet, doesn't mean that *IF* it's found that a "real-world" legal process cannot be executed.
>> Most people using the Internet may not understand that, but I would have expected journalists to understand it.
>> Is it illegal to suspend someones services for naming an executive of a media company for doing XYZ in the USA? I have no idea.
>> If it is illegal, then people need to speak out against a ridiculously brain-dead law.
>> If it is not illegal, people need to complain to Twitter for freedom of speech. Twitter need to rewind their equally brain-dead actions and apologise to the guy.
>> Now, if he has said nothing "illegal" on Twitter, then IMHO, fire up the legal drones Guy. This I unfortunately have direct experience of. At this point it becomes (certainly in parts of Europe) a case of "who's got the bigger legal team".
>> (My reasoning comes from Bruce Schneier's argument on laws specific to "cybercrimes". To paraphrase "Prosecution can be difficult in cyberspace. On one hand the crimes are the same.....The laws against certain practices, complete with criminal justice infrastructure to enforce them, are already in place....Fraud is fraud, whether it takes place over the US mail or the Internet.")
>> On 31 Jul 2012, at 00:17, David Johnson wrote:

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