What does Twitter call restrictions on free speech? They are “different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.”
And what about censorship? It’s “the ability to reactively withhold content.”
Although I imagine George Orwell would have been adept at using this character-restricted medium, I also imagine he would have viewed it with contempt — and now even more so, as Twitter like every other corporate entity puts its commercial interests in front of everything else.
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 believe that there’s 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.