In Praise of Twitter

by Ryan Singel on January 11, 2011

In December, Twitter received a court order from the Justice Department seeking details on users connected to Wikileaks, an order that came with a gag order forbidding the site from revealing the existence of the order.

Twitter fought that gag order and won the right to tell the account holders about the order, giving them the opportunity to quash it in court.

In today’s post for Wired.com, I propose that this become the standard for the tech industry:

Twitter briefly carried the torch for its users during that crucial period when, because of the gag order, its users couldn’t carry it themselves. The company’s action in asking for the gag order to be overturned sets a new precedent that we can only hope that other companies begin to follow.

The decision would be laudatory in almost any situation, and may even be unprecendented by a massive tech firm. The only other gag orders that I can think of that were challenged in court was one served on the Internet Archive, one on a small library, and another served on Nicholas Merrill, the president of the small NYC-based ISP Calyx Internet Access, who spent years resisting a National Security Letter order seeking information about one of his clients.

Even more remarkable, Twitter’s move comes as a litany of companies, including PayPal, Mastercard, VISA, and Bank of America, follow the political winds away from the First Amendment, banning donations to WikiLeaks. And Amazon.com voluntarily threw the site off its hosting platform, even though there’s nothing illegal in publishing classified documents. […]

Twitter deserves recognition for its principled upholding of the spirit of the First Amendment. It’s a shame that PayPal, Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America and the U.S. government all failed — and continue to to fail — at their own versions of that test.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chip Stone January 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Good on twitter for fighting the order and I must agree with you, it seems only fair that users should be notified.

This Wikileaks episode is becoming more of an epic. This is an epic fail by the US Government and like many regular folk, it appears that the red faced Man is trying to point the finger at the sky and pretend that a) it is somebody else in the wrong, and b) that they can fix the issue which is actually not Wikileaks but an angry global village and a not-so-secure information infrastructure. Maybe some honesty would be easier, seeing how the truth is clear to most but I suppose that it keeps the conscience more distant if the liar believes the lies…

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