Why changes to Twitter are bad for us.

If you are like me, Twitter is one of the only SOCMED accounts you own. I’ve owned/own multiple over the course of years for various reasons all surrounding the intention to collect information or OSINT. Being able to quickly and effectively streamline your consumption of news without relying on aggregates or third parties (Stratfor) is a potentially time consuming but rewarding tool.

Between Twitter taking flak for not doing “enough” against ISIL accounts and corporate personhood we see what was initially an unfettered domain for free speech, assisting in spreading news from around the world in many hotspots to include Turkey’s Taksim square, the initial Syria uprising, protests in Brazil and elsewhere, turn into something rather useless from a professional standpoint.

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We can have free speech with the huge caveat that it doesn’t offend anyone, isn’t provocative and doesn’t disagree with the company’s political lines or its backers.

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@Nero or Milo, has chronicled his experiences with Twitter’s rampant censorship. Unfortunately his case is not new and this has again, been ongoing for some time.

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This chart of public take down requests from governments around the world has been rapidly and steadily rising over the years.

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I won’t comment regarding my knowledge on the extent of monitoring by antiterrorism or intelligence professionals on twitter, but I will say that suspending various anti-government accounts instead of leaving them alone has been detrimental. One of the most powerful tools that intelligence professionals have in their toolkit is open source, which requires no classification. SOCMED falls into that category.

Driving persons of interest deeper into encrypted comms and further deceptive practices, simply put, hinders investigation.

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For “your safety” they’ve assembled a 44 nation task force to commit thought policing on twitter. Intelligence aspect withstanding, this discourages free speech and ushers in repression. I’ve conversed with people who’ve been suspended for disagreeing publicly with “assault weapon” bans.  Granted they can just reregister an account but eventually it will be learned behavior to duck your head and bite your tongue.

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I’ve kept up with a Twitter power user and we both agree that this has been a problem for months now. Feeds don’t flow chronologically and they haven’t for a while now.  Things get front loaded, certain things get completely hidden. This just continues to shift the power into the hands of censors. News of an unpopular rebellion can be snuffed out from feeds while the latest Kardashian news can be front loaded.

This development for Twitter is a victory for Erdogan, a victory for Yanukovich and Poroshenko and any other leader who wants to potentially commit atrocities against his people with impunity.

When people on the Maidan in Ukraine were receiving threatening messages on their phones and being disappeared there were at the same time people posting cavalcades of evidence on Twitter.  Documenting what otherwise might never have been recorded.

In the end, censorship means people are less free. Global reports on free press and censorship are available from places like Freedom House (Freedom on the Net Report) and the OpenNet Initiative, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In summarization: OSINT collectors and human rights advocates need to disinvest from Twitter and realize what it is, and what it’s become. Take the time to identify currently used networks by your AOR and commit to a wider net of observation and collecting in order to continue getting an unbiased look at what’s going on.

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