Opinion

The Great Debate

from Paul Smalera:

Twitter’s censorship is a gray box of shame, but not for Twitter

Twitter’s announcement this week that it was going to enable country-specific censorship of posts is arousing fury around the Internet. Commentators, activists, protesters and netizens have said it’s “very bad news” and claim to be “#outraged”. Bianca Jagger, for one, asked how to go about boycotting Twitter, on Twitter, according to the New York Times. (Step one might be... well, never mind.) The critics have settled on #TwitterBlackout: all day on Saturday the 28th, they promised to not tweet, as a show of protest and solidarity with those who might be censored.

Here’s the thing: Like Twitter itself, it’s time for the Internet, and its chirping classes, to grow up. Twitter’s policy and its transparency pledge with the censorship watchdog Chilling Effects is the most thoughtful, honest and realistic policy to come out of a technology company in a long time. Even an unsympathetic reading of the new censorship policy bears that out.

To understand why, let’s unpack the policy a bit: First, Twitter has strongly implied it will not remove content under this policy. If that doesn’t sound like a crucial distinction from outright censorship, it is. Taking the new policy with existing ones, the only time Twitter says it will ever remove a tweet altogether is in response to a DMCA request. The DMCA may have its own flaws, but it is a form of censorship that lives separately from the process Twitter has outlined in this recent announcement. Where the DMCA process demands a deletion of copyright-infringing content, Twitter’s censorship policy promises no such takedown: it promises instead only to withhold censored content from the country where the content has been censored. Nothing else.

To be sure, that’s censorship of a kind, but compared to the industry censorship even Americans have long lived with -- take the Motion Picture Association of America, which still censors films based on dubious standards of taste and morality -- it’s positively enlightened. And it never permanently destroys or pre-empts content, the way the MPAA does.

Further, for a country to censor content, it has to make a “valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity” to Twitter, which will then decide what to do with the request. Twitter will also make an effort to notify users whose content is censored about what happened and why, and even give them a method to challenge the request. According to Twitter’s post, a record of the action will also be filed to the Chilling Effects website. The end result of a successful request is that the tweet or user in question is replaced by a gray box that notifies other readers inside the censoring country that the Tweet has been censored:

Stopping the Stop Online Piracy Act

Now that Congress has hit pause on its controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and nearly every argument about the merits and failings of the piece of copyright legislation has been made, it’s a good time to ask: what, in 2012, will it take to actually stop a bill like this?

Because despite the delay, the situation still isn’t looking so hot for those looking to bring down SOPA. Amendments to tone down the bill’s more disliked points have been routinely defeated in the House Judiciary Committee by numbers sufficient to pass the bill to the full House floor.

But, at this point in the process, numbers aren’t everything. In the wake of the Arab Spring, talk of censoring technology hits the ears differently. More important is that in SOPA’s short two-month life, opposition to it has catalyzed online and off. But to succeed, its opponents will have to both boost the volume of their public alarm and convince Congress that, in an Internet-soaked 2012, questioning SOPA needn’t be politically fatal.

Is social media losing its lure … and return on investment?

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How do you know that social media is folded into the narrative of American life? Perhaps when people are being encouraged to give it up for a religious holiday.

Offlining Inc., a group of Silicon Valley types, is promoting the occasional break from social media and tech devices in general by blasting an ad showing Lindsay Lohan. The message: “You don’t have to be Jewish to make amends for your tweets on Yom Kippur.”

It’s a good idea — we could all use time off from our iPhones, not to mention Twitter, Facebook, et al. But Americans don’t actually spend that much time on social media. Which is good because the reason many people have embraced social media (which would be marketing) is turning out to have a lousy return on investment, if you consider the opportunity cost of time.

Is Twitter work?

JAPAN-ELECTION/INTERNETThe following is a guest post by Laura Vanderkam, author of “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think” and “Grindhopping: Build a Rewarding Career without Paying Your Dues.” She is a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors. This piece originally appeared on her blog. The opinions expressed are her own.

In “168 Hours,” I talk about trying to distinguish between “work” and “not-really-work.” Work means activities that are advancing you toward your career goals. I like this definition, because it forces us to examine how we spend our hours closely.

We do plenty of things at work that are not-really-work, even if they look like it. A meeting that you didn’t need to attend, or that went on long past the point of diminishing returns is, by this definition, disguised and ineffective leisure time. On the other hand, coffee with a friend, during which you discuss your career plans, is work.

from The Great Debate UK:

One Young World: let’s hear it from the under-25s

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Amid the ongoing global conversation about the economy, and projections about when -- and in which markets -- the world might emerge from financial crisis, the collective voice of the 25-and-under age group is hard to hear.

It could have been silenced due to a sense of futility about challenging the so-called Establishment, or it might be online -- constrained by such social media outlets as Facebook and Twitter.

Whatever the case, advertising and communications agency Euro RSCG Worldwide is taking measures to get the under-25s to speak up on such issues as the environment, health and education at an event called One Young World, which will be held from February 8-10 in London.

from The Great Debate UK:

Are publication bans outdated in the Internet era?

IMG01299-20100115-2004The debate over freedom of expression and the impact of social networking on democratic rights in the courts is in focus in Canada after a Facebook group became the centre of controversy when it may have violated a publication ban.

The group, which has more than 7,000 members, was set up to commemorate the murder of a 2-year-old boy in Oshawa, Ontario.

The breach of a publication ban could lead to a mistrial, a fine and even jail time. Violating a ban could taint the opinions of witnesses or jurors, and the news media must wait to report information protected under a publication ban until after the trial is over.

from The Great Debate UK:

Remembering how to forget in the Web 2.0 era

Amid ongoing debates over the hazards of excessive digital exposure through such Web 2.0 social networking platforms as Facebook and Twitter, a new book by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger extols the virtues of forgetfulness.

Since the emergence of digital technology and global networks, forgetting has become an exception, Mayer-Schonberger writes in "Delete".

"Forgetting plays a central role in human decision-making," he argues. "It lets us act in time, cognizant of, but not shackled by, past events."

from The Great Debate UK:

Internet freedom prevails over Guardian gag order

padraig_reidy- Padraig Reidy is news editor at Index on Censorship. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Solicitors Carter-Ruck have withdrawn the terms of an injunction preventing the Guardian from reporting a parliamentary question by Newcastle-under-Lyme Labour MP and former journalist Paul Farrelly.

This has been seen - rightly -  as a victory for free expression, and a demonstration of the amazing power of the web in the face of attempted censorship.

from Commentaries:

Twitter backlash foretold

Technology market research firm Gartner Inc has published the 2009 "Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies," its effort to chart out what's hot or not at the cutting edge of hi-tech jargon. It's just one of an annual phalanx of reports that handicap some 1,650 technologies or trends in 79 different categories for how likely the terms are to make it into mainstream corporate parlance.

Jackie Fenn, the report's lead analyst and author of the 2008 book "Mastering the Hype Cycle," delivers the main verdict:

Technologies at the Peak of Inflated Expectations during 2009 include cloud computing, e-books (such as from Amazon and Sony) and internet TV (for example, Hulu), while social software and microblogging sites (such as Twitter) have tipped over the peak and will soon experience disillusionment among corporate users.

from For the Record:

Citizen journalism, mainstream media and Iran

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The recent election in Iran was one of the more dramatic stories this year, with powerful images of protests and street-fighting dominating television and online coverage.

Because traditional news organizations were essentially shut down by the authorities, it fell to citizen journalists -- many of whom were among the protesters -- to provide the images that the world would see, using such social media as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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