Friday, January 27, 2012

In Defense of Twitter

*DISCLAIMER: Unlike usual, this is an OP-ED piece. It's a pain day for me, so I'm a bit scrambled on pain & meds - this post won't have the usual links to everything in it. You can trust me, or you can do your research to verify what I set forth as fact (which I recommend anyway).

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Why you should consider this post

There's a big wave of discontent against Twitter for announcing that it can/will be censoring tweets by country to comply with their legal requirements. People are "outraged" and want to "show Twitter who's boss" and "communication should be free" and...

Please listen to me now: I've been fully-involved in the internet and politically-aware of what concerns it both technically and legally since Operation Sun Devil & the Steve Jackson Games FBI raids. I happened to be a noobie on the net at that time, and SJG/Illuminati site was a place to go for game info and community revolving around Steve's excellent tabletop RPG games.

If you read my last post about #SOPA (or this entire site) you know that I know my stuff; I know a lot about the legal shenanigans the government & industry have been using to attempt to control the channels of communication for the last 25+ years. It has been my privilege and my pleasure to consider myself a Netizen (a citizen of the Internet) for longer than most people. Because I live here, more than most, I've considered it my civic duty to watch, learn, investigate and talk about the technology & the implications of it for evolutionary change and human freedom.

Also because I have spent as much time here as other people spend on "having a real life" - children, a home, a career - I do know things; I spend a lot of time learning about my environment, the people who live there and the forces arrayed against this historically-unique manifestation of free speech.

So now I must speak out in defense of Twitter.

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What Twitter Did (as opposed to what people think they did)

Twitter has announced that, in order to keep within the legal requirements of other countries in order to continue operating in those countries, their tech allows the company to block tweets or users on a country-by-country basis. Previously, blocking tweets had to be done globally, meaning if an oppressive regime asked Twitter to remove a tweet or block a user, it had to be done for everyone in the world. Now, Twitter can remove that tweet in that country, but allow the world to see it.

At the same time, Twitter slipped users a key to the lock. Think about that.

With all this chatter lately about "what companies are doing to suppress our rights," it's easy to get caught up in someone's gut reaction, their outrage or their political position. But that's playing the game we all want to get away from. That's the Polarity Game; the Chessboard with two opposing sides, in black and white. But that is not how things work. That is not the Network Model; "it's a trap!"

By slipping us the Key, Twitter is walking a minefield, and you should understand just what minefield Twitter is in before you start formulating adamantine black-and-white opinions.

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What's going on

If you're reading this, you're one of the people that have become aware of the attempts by governments and industries to contain, alter, geld and control the internet. There was a reason this was named "The Information Revolution" many years ago; it is only now that people are understanding this was no whim, no PR snappy soundbyte; no cute metaphor like "the information superhighway" - this was a dry, technical description of what this technological breakthrough meant/would mean. This is war.

The forces arrayed against an open Internet are formidable. This slowly-building, covert war against the technology and implications of an easily-accessible means of mass communication is coming to a head.

For a moment, compare Twitter's actions and speech to those of Google, AT&T, Viacom, Comcast & the rest of the Players. Google has not only told users to STFU and take what they offer, its been less-than-forthcoming about its compliance with the US Gov/TSA/DHS/NSA/spook crowd. The same goes for AT&T, who has not only folded and let the spooks install monitoring on every trunk line they own, they've used their muscle and weight to push legislation (hand-in-hand with government) for retroactive immunity for Constitutional violations and illegal operations. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the Players.

On the other hand, what Twitter has done is technically comply with these draconian measures to suppress speech, meanwhile dispersing the technical information necessary to route around these measures in order to keep the channel of communications that is Twitter open and in use.

What Twitter could have done

Twitter could have complied like Google and allowed whatever country(s) to dictate whether Twitter could be reached at all. By technically complying with these requests/dictates, Twitter remains open as a tool for communication in war time.

On the other hand, if Twitter did not bow to these "regulations" and gave the metaphorical Finger to these communications-fascists, Twitter could have easily been blocked/cut off/removed from an entire country's use (except in cases of VPN/ssh and other tools/techniques which require a bit of technical ability). At this point, I wouldn't trust our own government not to resort to dirty tricks, "business regulations," obscure lines buried in telcomm laws already passed or secret DHS/TSA "orders" to destroy Twitter as a business.

Think of the French Resistance, operating under cover in Vichy France. You might wish to run out into the street and scream "Fascist!" at any passing member of the ruling junta... which would get you shot; end of story. But what if communications with the Resistance depended on you to relay messages, supplies and information? Giving in to your (understandable) rage would hurt a lot more people than you... so you wouldn't; you'd bite the bullet, smile and nod to the Jackboots, serve their coffee and listen carefully for information that would be of use to the Resistance.

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This is war

This is war, and you have to think; the world is not black-and-white - that's the old revolving-gameboard, binary, dualistic model we're trying to get out from under. Twitter has not bent over like the others. Twitter has basically played by the letter of those rules in order to get around those rules with imagination, cleverness and technical know-how while striving to keep the ability to communicate freely open.

This took some guts, knowledge of their own system and knowledge of the ignorance of the enemy. Twitter was very clever... much more so than, say, Google. Twitter was also very transparent about what was going on; again in contrast to the Goog, the telcomms and the govt.

Twitter has openly danced on the plank like Capt. Jack Sparrow, putting on a good show for the Powers while flashing signals with a concealed mirror to Loyalists and Netizens to be aware, be ready and use the tools provided.

For these reasons, in this case, I commend Twitter and I put my experience, my technical, legal and historical knowledge behind that support. Twitter's gone much farther for netizen's rights than almost any other major company I can think of and it is important to me (as it should be to you) to recognize a clever ally in wartime.

For these reasons, I will not be participating in Op #Twitterblackout.

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  1. Thanks for the info Miso and tell that evil pain to leave you alone, you don´t deserve it!

  2. I fully agree! I´ll support Twitter too, for the same reasons. <3