Twitter, like WordPress, acts as Pakistan’s censor of “anti Muslim sentiments”

Ensaif Haidar is a Saudi Arabian human rights activist who is married to Raif Badawi, a Saudi dissident who has been sitting in prison for six years for “apostasy” and “insulting Islam through electronic channels.” Badawi’s sentence was ten years, a fine, and 1000 lashes, although only 50 lashes were given. (Haidar says that his health is poor and Badawi won’t survive further lashes.) The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is only the most public violation of human rights by the repressive and murderous country of Saudi Arabia.

Haidar fled Saudi Arabia when a fatwa was issued against her husband. She went first to Egypt, then to Lebanon, finally settling in Canada, where she and her three children became citizens last year. She campaigns tirelessly for her husband’s freedom as well as for human rights in Muslim-majority countries. Haidar is the president of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom, which describes itself as “the liberal Center for Freedom of Speech in the Arab world. Its aim is to contribute to the fulfillment of the Arab societies and countries in the world.”  Badawi’s Twitter feed is worth watching, containing stuff like this:

. . . and information like this (Asal Mohammadi is doomed if she goes to Evin Prison):

At any rate, there is a report that Badawi’s Twitter account was suspended, apparently temporarily, when she made the tweet below. (Despite that report, I can’t find confirmation, even from Haidar’s tweets, that Twitter actually suspended her account, but it surely threatened her for what’s below.)

Under any conception of free speech, including most construals of “hate speech,” this is acceptable discourse; it simply calls out the wearing of a garment. As Haidar explained:

But Twitter sent her correspondence from the government of Pakistan, claiming that the tweet violated Pakistani law. This threat, even if it didn’t lead to suspension of Haidar’s account, surely has a chilling effect.  (Remember that my own WordPress account was taken offline in Pakistan because it also “offended Muslim sentiments,” although I am not Pakistani and WordPress is an American company!) Haidar was flummoxed that Twitter did this and she’s not even Pakistani!:

Twitter, it seems, is acting as Pakistan’s voluntary censor (if her account wasn’t suspended—contrary to what Halsey News claims—then it’s still a threat conveyed by Twitter). Why is Twitter trying to enforce Pakistani law in Canada or the U.S., where Pakistani law has no force?

ThePrint reports Twitter’s explanation:

Twitter’s policy communications manager Kate Hayes told ThePrint over email: “Many countries have laws that may apply to tweets and/or Twitter account content. In our continuing effort to make our services available to people everywhere, if we receive valid requests from an authorised entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”

“When we notify users that we have received a report against their account, it does not necessarily mean that we will take action on that report,” Hayes said.

Valid requests? How did Twitter determine that a request to block a critique of the niqab was “valid”?  The answer of course, is that Twitter needs “to make services available to people everywhere,” which means “GIVE US DOLLAH $$$$!”. What good are “services” if the political bits are censored?

And in fact it’s hypocritical, because if Twitter threatens the expression above, why does it allow far more hateful stuff—a call for Badawi’s beheading—to get only a slap on the wrist? See this tweet from Haidar:

With all kinds of leftists calling for Twitter to ban “hate speech” (since it’s a private company, it can of course do what it wants, but limiting discourse about stuff like the niqab isn’t the way to go), it has now gone too far in that direction by suspending the accounts or threatening people like Haidar.

And seriously, Twitter acting as muscle for the Pakistani government?

We know why they do that, of course: it’s all about money. That’s why WordPress suspended my own website in Pakistan: because allowing blasphemy like the Jesus and Mo cartoons I published would impede WordPress’s ability to make money from Pakistani users.  There comes a point where free discussion is more important than money, at least for those with principles. The only principle that’s driving Twitter and WordPress, apparently, is the search for dosh.

I’ll conclude with this tweet, supporting Haidar, from mathematician Eric Weinstein:

 

37 Comments

  1. Posted December 5, 2018 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    We need something other than Twitter to keep track of frriedns and colleagues and share interesting stuff.

    • Posted December 5, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Definately. Something independent of advertising and of profit although how this would work I am at a loss.

    • Paul S
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      We had that, it was called mail. We also had telephones.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      We need something other than Twitter to keep track of frriedns and colleagues and share interesting stuff.

      Did you use Diaspora when it started up? I considered it – I may even have set up an account – but that was about the time that I decided to stop doing Facebook.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, they are all the same. Money comes first and last. Twitter is so good that some dictators can run their country, just from tweets.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      😎

      I see what you did there…

      cr

  3. Posted December 5, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Twitter is another large corporation going SJW.

    The banning of feminist Megan Murphy, simply for referring to the trans activist Jonathan Yaniv as “him”, was ludicrous.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is only the most public violation of human rights by the repressive and murderous country of Saudi Arabia.

    I was heartened (slightly, anyway) to see some GOP senators, like Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker, buck Dear Leader on this after they were — finally! — briefed on the Khashoggi assassination by CIA director Gina Haspel.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Yes, nothing but money and compromise could explain our great leader on this as well as with Russia. It should sicken everyone, but because it is Trump – just another day at the office.

    • Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Sounds like you copied that line from Bush 41 in his justification of the Gulf War. I was not happy with how George responded. Pretty much screwed up (technical term) the middle east until the present day. I don’t like what happened either, but we need to be careful in how we respond.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        A bit of homage to Poppy on the day of his memorial service in our capitol.

        I had some bones to pick with certain aspects of the first Gulf War, but 41 sure made the right decision in declining to march all the way to Baghdad, unlike 43.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          Amen. It was 180 degrees different, desert storm. I was working at a distribution center in Waco, Texas at the time. The conflict was over so fast, most of the supplies we sent had to come back.

          The big mistake made after that short work was giving helicopters back and letting the dictator murder his people with them.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Pretty much screwed up (technical term) the middle east until the present day.

        Screwed it up for … at a conservative estimate, 5 generations.
        That assumes (1) the rapid adoption of much more sane policies, and (2) that there are 5 more generations.

      • Posted December 5, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        The Middle East wasn’t roses and unicorns before. I wish someone had intervened when Saddam gassed the Kurds.

      • Posted December 6, 2018 at 3:38 am | Permalink

        George Bush’s Gulf war was about kicking Iraq out of Kuwait. It enjoyed good support globally including from several Arab states. He stopped the war as soon as it had achieved its objectives.

        What happened afterwards was a screw up compounded by his son’s desire to depose Saddam Hussein as revenge. Also, the Middle East was pretty well screwed up before it started.

        • Posted December 6, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

          There were orivkemd in the Middle East before the Gulf War but our invasion and our edtsbludhing based in Saudi Arabia to support that war resulted directly in the attack on the World Trade Center. That intrusion turned OBL to direct hus operations against us.
          That is the connection I see.

          • Diane G
            Posted December 6, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

            OG, please do us the favor of proofreading your posts.

          • Posted December 7, 2018 at 4:12 am | Permalink

            This is your 20/20 hindsight.

            There’s no way that Bush 41 could have predicted the rise of Al Qaeda when he went into the war.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Slightly, yes. But Graham has demonstrated many times in such situations in the past that he was simply acting out a charade for propaganda purposes and doesn’t really give a shit about the matter he is using to prop up the righteously pious, morally heroic image he works so hard at. For example, his carefully calculate histrionics during the Kavaunaugh / Ford confirmation hearing sessions. He is about the most dramatic and dramatically false politician I can think of in the GOP.

  5. Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    We sre capitalists here.

    • Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I don’t think money or making money us a bad thing. I also do not think compromise is bad. That us how we live.
      We still need the heavy crude that the Saudis ptoduce. And we snd Israel need the Saudis as s bslance of power against Irab. Or so the thinking goes in Washington and Jerusalem.

  6. Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this. Respect! Another source : https://clarionproject.org/twitter-now-enforces-pakistani-law/

  7. Ken Phelps
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    How about, oh, I don’t know….stop using twitter? Boycott their advertisers? Tell all your friends they’re misogyny enablers if they continue using it? Make it an embarrassment to admit you use it?

    Conversational intolerance.

  8. Posted December 5, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    In this case, capitalism poisons everything.

  9. Posted December 5, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    A ‘Get Banned From Twitter Day’ should be organized where everyone tweets the same things on the same day that got Haidar, et al., banned.

  10. Mike Anderson
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    The behavior of for-profit companies tend to favor increased profits. This is not new.

    If honoring Pakistan’s censorship requests tends toward increased profits….guess what?

    There’s no viable substitute for Twitter, but there are plenty (thousands) of viable substitutes for wordpress.com hosting.

  11. Paul
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see:

    * Rival platforms to Twitter and Facebook.

    * A legal right of users to have their data migrated to other platforms – like in the UK where we can move banks or utility companies.

    * A slick aggregator which would provide a unified view on all the ‘tweety’ platforms.

    • Posted December 6, 2018 at 3:43 am | Permalink

      That won’t work.

      You need to enforce seamless interoperability. So, if I’m on social media platform X and you are on platform Y, we can share posts and data as if we were both on the same platform. Without that, nobody is going to move off the platform where all their friends and other connections are.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    all kinds of leftists calling for Twitter to ban “hate speech” (since it’s a private company, it can of course do what it wants,

    And that is precisely why “hate speech” – whether or not it is allowed – should be regulated by law. Then you can get companies to behave as any other citizen (which they are in a taxation perspective).

    • BJ
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      How, exactly, would a law defining hate speech keep a social media company from further constricting speech that is not constricted by said law? Your proposed law does nothing to solve the problem. Furthermore, it doesn’t address the issue at hand because the US has no hate speech laws, so Twitter is defining and then banning “hate speech” because it wants to, rather than because it has to. Your proposed law would have no effect, except to mandate that Twitter and others censor certain types of speech. Twitter can (and, from the way they’ve been acting, will, as they’ve been going well beyond any EU country’s “hate speech” laws regarding certain subjects) censor lawful speech.

  13. Posted December 5, 2018 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post!

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    “Why is Twitter trying to enforce Pakistani law in Canada or the U.S., where Pakistani law has no force?”

    Short answer, they’re not.

    Where, exactly, did Twitter threaten to ban Haidar? All I can see is, they got a legal letter from Pakistan and they passed that information on to Haidar, probably as an automatic procedure.

    I quite agree, Haidar shouldn’t give a toss about Pakistani law. It should be a matter for amusement though, not indignation or alarm.

    cr

  15. Diane G
    Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    sub

  16. Kevin
    Posted December 8, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that it is feasible to expect agencies like Twitter or WordPress to act as arbiter of “political correctness”.
    To do so is actually to take sides and effectively take a moral position. This apart from their evident commercial interests.
    The issues concerned are of such extreme complexity that to keep a coherent stance would be impossible.

    It seems that both Twitter and WordPress are facing the same dilemma: keep communication open on principle and risk being shutdown or kowtow to repressive governments and collude in the repression.

    One option would be to apply no censorship to content and leave the latter to each country in receipt of IT messaging. At a certain point intolerent regimes might be excluded from the service (= censorship!).

    Maybe some kind of messaging UN might be a way of laying down guidelines/legal constraints for online content control.


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