Posts Tagged ‘LinkedIn’

Twitter effectively accepts that it is a publisher and responsible for content

August 3, 2013

I have no doubt in my mind that social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are – in fact – publishers. They benefit from the advertising revenues raised on the back of their “reach” and must be responsible – and accountable – for the content they publish.

The abuse of a number of women on Twitter in the UK has now led the head of Twitter UK to personally apologise and for Twitter to now take a number of steps to prevent this kind of abuse. It is a tacit admission of responsibility for their content and completely undermines their previous stand that they are not a publisher. Even though Twitter is “requesting” its users to exercise restraint, their “commitment” makes it clear that Twitter is taking responsibility – even if only implicitly – for ensuring that their users exercise the proper restraint.

A well deserved pat on the back for Twitter (assuming they don’t back away from this commitment and later try to pin the blame on irresponsible users).

Tony Wang apology (Twitter UK)

Tony Wang apology (Twitter UK)

BBCThe boss of Twitter UK has said sorry to women who have experienced abuse on the social networking site. Tony Wang said the threats were “simply not acceptable” and pledged to do more to tackle abusive behaviour.

The apology came as Twitter updated its rules and confirmed it would introduce an in-tweet “report abuse” button on all platforms, including desktops. Police are investigating eight allegations of abuse including bomb and rape threats made against women.

Two people have been arrested in relation to Twitter rape threats against Labour MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who received the threats after a campaign to have Jane Austen on the new £10 note.

Three female journalists said they were subjected to bomb threats on the site.

The revelations sparked a backlash online, with a petition calling for Twitter to add a “report abuse” button to tweets attracting more than 124,000 signatures. In a series of tweets, Twitter UK general manager Mr Wang said: 

  • “I personally apologize to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through. The abuse they’ve received is simply not acceptable”.
  • “It’s not acceptable in the real world, and it’s not acceptable on Twitter”.
  • “There is more we can and will be doing to protect our users against abuse. That is our commitment.”

In an earlier message posted on its blog, Twitter’s senior director for trust and safety Del Harvey and Mr Wang said the company had clarified its anti-harassment policy in light of feedback from customers.

They said: “It comes down to this: people deserve to feel safe on Twitter.”

The company has clarified its guidance on abuse and spam – reiterating that users “may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment”.

The “report abuse” button already available on the iOS Twitter app and mobile site will also be rolled out to the main website and Android app from September, Twitter said.

Ms Harvey and Mr Wang wrote in their blog: “We want people to feel safe on Twitter, and we want the Twitter rules to send a clear message to anyone who thought that such behaviour was, or could ever be, acceptable.”

Facebook and Twitter are “publishers”, not merely “couriers”

July 30, 2013

Social media like to claim that they merely provide a “platform” or  are just “communication enablers” or only provide “communication media” and therefore that they are not responsible – and should not be held responsible – for the content they disseminate.

But they protest too much.

It is quite wrong to compare Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn to a telecommunications enterprise or a postal service or a courier service or an e-mail service provider. In all of these a specific identifiable “sender” directs a communique to a specific, identified “receiver”. The carrying of the communique to the specific receiver is the service provided by the communications enterprise and is not in any sense “publishing”. The service provided by the social media is more than just the provision of a soap box in Hyde Park (a platform) or the provision of a Board or a Wall in a town square onto which a newspaper could be appended. Any website could be a platform for comments but the website owner must take ultimate responsibility for the content published on the web-site.

Facebook and Twitter disseminate their users communiques to a general audience without discriminating as to who may receive the communique. Their business models rely on this audience being as large as possible. Their advertising revenues depend upon the dissemination being as wide and as “indiscriminate” as possible. They are not so different to a radio or a TV broadcast where the broadcaster tries to reach as large an audience as possible. The broadcaster is clearly responsible and accountable for the content of the broadcast. A free newspaper being distributed at all Metro stations but where revenues are dependent upon advertising also has a responsible publisher. Any advertising revenue accrues to the publisher.

The clincher for me is that the placement of advertisements based on circulation is decisive proof of the existence of a publisher. All published material does not contain advertising. Not all advertising is proof of the existence of a publisher. A billboard or sandwich-board owner for example, is not a publisher. But the mere existence of advertising based on circulation numbers or “reach” or any similar parameter is conclusive proof – I think – of the existence of a publisher. And it is the person or organisation responsible for the circulation who takes the advertising revenues and in consequence must be the responsible and accountable publisher.

Freedom of speech does not really enter the argument. The publisher may choose to publish whatever he pleases. He may refrain from “censoring” his users if he so wishes. Or he may – at some cost – ensure that the content he publishes meets criteria that he sets himself. But he remains responsible and accountable for what he publishes. Facebook and Twitter cannot abdicate their responsibility because they choose not to exercise the quality control they could.

It seems to me to be self-evident that Facebook and Twitter are not “billboards” or “sandwich-boards” but are full fledged “broadcasters”. And a broadcaster is a publisher. They could take responsibility for the content they disseminate if they wanted to. It just costs. They can be held accountable for what they indubitably do publish – and they should.


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