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Twitter Acts Against Revenge Porn

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For the Twitter user who’d say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was wrong to post pictures of my ex-girlfriend in a compromising position,” there’s a new, explicit policy banning such an activity. The platform is traditionally very open and laissez-faire in regards to the content posted by its users.

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Communications Decency Act

punchExisting legislation such as the Communications Decency Act currently protects Twitter and other sites from being liable for content uploaded by its users, but the recent movement of popular conscience against what is deemed “revenge porn” has moved the fastest-growing social network to ban the practice.

Previously, the site did not have a policy on the posting of other people’s naked photos or videos. Surely, posts could be taken down on a case-by-base basis, especially in the case of underage users, but now Twitter has added the following line to its “private information” section:

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You may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent.

You can see here that previously they did not have such a clause. The change also renames “pornographic content” to “graphic content.” Such is not banned in general use of Twitter, but certain uses of graphic content are against the rules – like in a profile photo.

Revenge porn – the practice of publicizing naked photos and homemade pornography of former lovers – has been the subject of several headlines recently. One man, Hunter Moore, is facing up to seven years in federal prison for his time spent as the “revenge porn king.” Meanwhile Kevin Bollaert of California was found guilty last month on counts of identity theft and extortion for his website that charged women to have the photos removed. Bollaert’s site was not dissimilar to sites that publish embarrassing arrest information and force the citizen to pay in order to have it taken down.

Twitter now has a form for victims of revenge porn to fill out and report the offending individual and tweets. The individual themselves must be the ones to make the claim, and conceivably there are still cases where a Twitter user might be let off the hook – such as if the images or videos were first posted elsewhere on the Internet. The way the policies interact with each other makes it overtly unclear whether Twitter will always delete revenge porn or not. One might say the real question is whether Twitter wants users who engage in such behavior or not. Taking revenge by embarrassing your ex in such a damaging way is a clear sign of deeper underlying mental health issues.

Writing for Motherboard, Carl Franzen says Twitter’s new rules don’t get the job done.

Far from being proactive, the method for policing content on both is reactive: Twitter and Reddit have said they’re going to act after an abuse has already been committed, by which point the damage may have already been done. Even if Twitter or Reddit remove revenge porn or other abusive content, someone else could have copied that content and posted it on other websites.

Revenge porn is one of those things that couldn’t have been an epidemic before the Internet but is now a reality we all must face. Proactive doesn’t just mean having policies in place to deal with such abuses of people’s privacy, but also means educating people about the dangers of having such photos taken in the first place.

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Politics

Viral Disinformation Warning: Fake News Are Taking over Facebook

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Today’s news: Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford voted for Donald Trump, the Republican President-elect of the US, because the liberals want to take away their money; Melania Trump filed to divorce her husband, Donald Trump; Donald Trump himself said to People Magazine that Republicans are the dumbest group of voters; All the news above are fake, but trending on the social networks.

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(more…)

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Op-Ed

Like: Facebook Could Stop Playing Nanny and Thought Cop

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Like! Facebook

Facebook is often criticized for playing nanny: removing content deemed unsuitable for minors, removing content deemed offensive to this or that group, and in general adopting a perhaps benevolent but certainly heavily hands-on approach to the material posted by users. That could be about to change.

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According to a Facebook news release penned by Joel Kaplan, VP Global Public Policy, and Justin Osofsky, VP Global Operations and Media Partnerships, the social network’s interference practices are about to be relaxed.

“In the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest – even if they might otherwise violate our standards,” say Kaplan and Osofsky. “We will work with our community and partners to explore exactly how to do this.”

The social network’s policies are outlined in the Facebook Community Standards. The first two sections of the document, titled “Helping to keep you safe” and “Encouraging respectful behavior” are relevant here.

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Many Facebook users are familiar with the fact that a post containing adult language, or a picture showing nudity, or a video with sexual content, for example, can be removed by Facebook.

The company is also known for enforcing a strict real name disclosure policy: pseudonymous users and privacy-conscious users who log in through Tor and anonymizing proxies can be blocked from accessing Facebook unless they provide government-issued documents and pictures.

Facebook has probably good intentions. Its interference and censorship measures can be justified by invoking, for example, the need to protect young Facebook users from predators hiding behind a fake identity. At the same time, many perfectly normal Facebook users are beginning to resent the leading social network’s nanny attitude, and switching to more hands-off social media like Reddit.

Censorship is more difficult to justify when it comes to current news and opinions shared by users and media operators on Facebook, which may “involve violence and graphic images of public interest or concern, such as human rights abuses or acts of terrorism.” Though such material is deeply disturbing, publishing it is important to raise awareness of important issues.

“Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them,” say Kaplan and Osofsky.

Facebook move to relax its community standards is a step in the right direction, and it’s to be hoped that the identity standards will be also relaxed. There are plenty of nice folks who don’t want to reveal their real identity for perfectly legitimate reasons.

Facebook, Please Also Stop Political Censorship and Thought Policing

CensoredKaplan and Osofsky admit that “people often disagree about what standards should be in place to ensure a community that is both safe and open to expression.”

“We think of ourselves as a technology company,” said Facebook VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri, as reported by TechCrunch. Mosseri added that Facebook plays an important media role, yet “our responsibility is to make sure we’re a platform for all ideas.”

We’re not in the business of deciding which ideas people should read about.

That makes perfect sense, though TechCrunch seems to disagree. It appears that some people at Facebook also disagree. In fact, some employees pushed to remove posts by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for alleged “hate speech,” The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ruled that it would be inappropriate to censor the candidate, after which some pro-censorship employees threatened to quit.

In August, Facebook fired some contract workers who manipulated the social network’s trending topics feed for political purposes, skewing it toward a liberal bias.

According to Pew Research, about bout 44 percent of Americans get at least some of their news from Facebook. That shows how Facebook is de-facto a major news media with important political impact. Therefore, Facebook should either explicitly declare a political bias, or strive to provide impartial, unbiased coverage of political news and opinions.

Libertarian magazine Reason notes that calls to ban hate speech are deeply misguided. “Such bans have the opposite of the intended effect, protecting the forbidden speech from critical engagement and giving it a martyr-like status.”

Unpopular speech is the most important speech to protect, otherwise free speech is an illusion.

Zuckerberg recently resisted witch-hunting calls to end Facebook’s association with venture capitalist Peter Thiel, “guilty” of openly supporting Trump. “We can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate,” said Zuckerberg in an internal memo. “There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault.”

In related news, the Trump campaign launched a new Facebook Live show Monday night.

Facebook’s steps toward an open, impartial and unbiased approach, are to be praised. “Like” it or not, the world is full of people who, for perfectly legitimate reasons that make sense to them, adopt wildly different political positions, and the citizens can exercise their right to democracy only if they can listen to, and evaluate, all different political position.

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Images from Ksayer1/Flickr and Shutterstock.

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Law

A Judge Has Approved a Lawsuit to be Served via Twitter

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Non-profit St. Francis of Assisi has been prosecuting a lawsuit on behalf of the estates and families of Assyrian Christians were murdered and had their property destroyed as a result of ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State activities in the middle east. The group is suing Kuwait Finance House, Kuveyt-Turk Participation Bank Inc., and a man named Hajjaj al-Ajmi for having financed the terrorist groups, but has had trouble serving papers on al-Ajmi.

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The plaintiffs noticed that al-Ajmi has an active Twitter account and asked a federal court to allow them to serve the papers that way. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler assented to this request, saying in a ruling:

The court grants St. Francis’s request because service via Twitter is reasonably calculated to give notice and is not prohibited by international agreement.

Also a Twitter Rebel

Hajjaj al-Ajmi was kicked off Twitter in 2014 following a Treasury Department sanction. However, in May of this year he created at least one new account, and currently has over 100,000 followers. At the time, al-Ajmi was actively raising funds for Islamic State efforts, even posting phone numbers for people to call and make donations through. Archived tweets and news coverage would provide ample evidence in a case against him.

4-al-ajmi-tweet

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The St. Francis of Assisi is acting specifically on behalf of Christian victims of the Islamic State. Al-Ajmi’s status as a banned transactor by the Treasury Department, his history of being kicked off social media platforms for terrorist activities, and his general repertoire of anti-Christian, extremist Islam make him a ripe target for the proceedings. The other parties named in the suit have already been served by traditional means.

Not a First

The ruling notes that other cases in the past have allowed for the use of social media as an alternative means of serving papers. It noted the case of a trademark infringement suit against a Turkish citizen who could not be located. In that case, the court authorized e-mail, Facebook, and LinkedIn to be used. In a scam artistry case in which the Federal Trade Commission could not reach the alleged scam artists and could not get help from the Indian government, a federal court gave them permission to use the Facebook accounts of the parties named.

Probably Not a Normal Thing

Don’t worry, though. If you’re named in a lawsuit and you’re reachable by traditional methods, most likely you’re still going to be served in the traditional ways. One can imagine a future where frustrated process servers push for legislation to allow for the regular serving of papers via social media, and such an explicit law could conceivably make this ordeal the norm, but in all three of the largely known cases where this has happened, the plaintiffs had to get special permission from the court before considering social media serving to be in line with due process.

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