Having been caught in a crossfire over internet free speech and Russian conspiracy theories, Twitter has quietly made a significant change in its stated “Twitter Rules” terms of service.
Following several Congressional hearings meant to root out “Russian interference” by Twitter accounts, as well as an incident in which a disgruntled, now former employee, disabled Donald Trump’s twitter account for 11 minutes, it appears that Twitter no longer believes in “speaking truth to power.”
The change can be seen in Twitter’s TOS, in the “Abusive Behavior” section, which currently states that “We believe in freedom of expression and open dialogue, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up.”
This is a material change from what this section stated as recently as November 2, when the section read “We believe in freedom of expression and in speaking truth to power”…
… with believing in “speaking truth to power” replaced with “open dialogue.“
The change took place just two days after November 1, when Twitter, along with Google and Facebook, were questioned by Congress in the ongoing witch-hunt, as dubbed by Donald Trump, for “Russian influence” that may have led to interference in the 2016 presidential election. As @Jack twitted at the time, the changes to Twitter’s rules were made as part of a November 3 attempt to “clarify” them.
We just published a clearer version of the Twitter Rules to clarify our policies and how we enforce them https://t.co/gPv9nt3y1M
— jack (@jack) November 3, 2017
In a statement, the company said that it wanted to make it clear that “context is crucial when evaluating abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions.”
In its testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Twitter unveiled that it used a vast array of tenuous criteria to define accounts as “Russia-linked,” and also admitted it had censored the hashtags #PodestaEmails and #DNCLeaks tweets during the 2016 US presidential election campaign in an effort to limit public exposure to leaked documents describing the Democratic National Committee’s efforts to boost Clinton as the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate during the primaries, a process which was subsequently defined as rigged by none other than Elizabeth Warren following blockbuster claims by interim DNC chair Donna Brazile. Twitter Associate General Counsel Sean Edgett claimed many of those tweets were “automated” and hidden by anti-spam systems. He also admitted that less than 4 percent of them came from potential “Russian-linked” accounts.
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