Category Archives: Twitter

Twitter Case Exposes the Downside of Grandstanding

via Wired: 

 

Twitter always fancied itself a more benevolent, open startup than most. It referred to its “ecosystem” rather than its customers and, as recently as this January, referred to itself as “an information utility” rather than a mere social network.

But that rhetoric may come back to haunt the microblogging service: A state superior court judge in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order forcing Twitter to keep providing a smaller startup with a river of Twitter data. Twitter wants to curtail the data access amid a broader crackdown on use of its stream of tweets and relationship data, but the startup, San Francisco-based PeopleBrowsr, says Twitter created the impression the data would remain available for a long period of time. “Twitter has built its business on the promise of openness,” PeopleBrowser wrote of the case on its blog. In court papers it added that “Twitter has repeatedly and consistently promised that it would maintain an ‘open ecosystem’ for its data.” (You can read the full complaint here.)

PeopleBrowsr wants to prevent Twitter from exercising a contract provision allowing either party to terminate the deal for any reason with just 30 days’ notice. Twitter, meanwhile, has said this flies in the face of “Contracts 101.” A hearing for a preliminary injunction is slated for Jan. 8.

Twitter provides PeopleBrowsr with access to its full “firehose” of data, a massive stream of tweets that could not be collected from Twitter’s open website without violating the company’s terms of service and without circumventing technical blockades. PeopleBrowsr sifts and analyzes the data for marketers and other clients including, the company says in court papers, the Department of Defense. Getting cut off by Twitter will invalidate contracts with those clients, including a $3 million deal involving the DoD, and harm competition in the data analytics space, PeopleBrowsr maintains.

If PeopleBrowsr gains further traction with its argument, it could create a precedent that forces startups well beyond Twitter to weigh their statements more carefully and to ensure that any open interfaces they provide are not misconstrued as long-term promises. Would Facebook need to provide an aggregated feed of all public status updates from users? Would social networks like Foursquare be prevented from curtailing their APIs without some minimum notice?

There have been tensions for decades between the owners of tech platforms and the companies who build on those platforms; it’s historically been common for platforms like Twitter to subsume functions built by outsiders on top of the platform. What’s not so common is for a platform creator to be as vocal and convincing as Twitter has been about what a unique and good-hearted company it is.

Twitter’s uniquely successful evangelism of its own technology might just turn the company into a test case for how technology companies can and should communicate with one another in the age of social media.

via Chicago Tribune: 

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter Inc’s steadily tightening grip over the 140-character messages on its network has set off a spirited debate in Silicon Valley over whether a social media company should or should not lay claim over its user-generated content.

That debate has now landed in court.

A San Francisco judge on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order compelling Twitter to continue providing access to its “Firehose” – the full daily stream of some 400 million tweets – to PeopleBrowsr Inc, a data analytics firm that sifts through Twitter and resells that information to clients ranging from technology blogs to the U.S. Department of Defense.

As part of a broader revenue-generating strategy, Twitter in recent months has begun clamping down on how its data stream may be accessed, to the dismay of many third-party developers who have built businesses and products off of Twitter’s Firehose.

PeopleBrowsr, which began contracting Firehose access in July 2010, has continued to buy Twitter data on a month-to-month basis until this July, when Twitter invoked a clause in the agreement that allowed for terminating the contract without cause.

The court’s decision to extend the two San Francisco-based companies’ contract has not settled the legal spat; a judge will hear PeopleBrowsr’s arguments for a preliminary injunction against Twitter on January 8.

But the case could provide the first, in-depth look at issues surrounding one of the Internet industry’s most prominent players in Twitter.

In a court filing, PeopleBrowsr founder John David Rich argued the Twitter move was a “commercial disaster” for his business and contradicted the spirit of repeated public statements that Twitter has made regarding its data.

“Twitter has repeatedly and consistently promised that it would maintain an ‘open ecosystem’ for its data,” Rich said in his company’s request for a temporary injunction.

In its response, Twitter’s lawyers argued: “This is Contracts 101.”

Twitter said in a statement after the court decision: “We believe the case is without merit and will vigorously defend against it.”

SKOREAN MAN SENTENCED FOR RETWEETING NKOREAN POSTS

via AP:

 

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean man has received a suspended 10-month prison term for retweeting North Korean propaganda posts.

The Suwon District Court cited the National Security Law in its ruling Wednesday against Park Jeong-geun. The law prohibits praising and glorifying North Korea. Park could have received seven years in prison.

The court says it suspended the prison term partly because Park promised not to repeat his act. It says Twitter’s widespread influence over society is the reason Park’s actions threatened national security

The 24-year-old Park retweeted dozens of posts from North Korea’s Twitter account last year. He reportedly denies that he meant to praise Pyongyang and says he was only trying to lampoon North Korea.

Seoul and Pyongyang technically remain at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce.

China arrests blogger for Twitter joke

via Guardian:

Internet petition for Chinese blogger arrested after posting Twitter joke about Communist leadership congress

China-congress-Beijing

China has arrested a Beijing blogger for joking on Twitter about the 18th Communist party congress, suggesting a horror movie scenario involving the Great Hall of the People (pictured) collapsing on delegates. Photograph: Carlos Barria/REUTERS

Chinese internet users are rallying around a Beijing blogger detained by police after posting a joke on Twitter about the pivotal Communist Party congress.

Chinese authorities have been especially sensitive to dissent about the party meeting, which last week ushered in a new generation of leaders. Activists were sent out of Beijing beforehand, and police rounded up hundreds of people who tried to draw the central authorities’ attention to grievances against local governments.

Zhai Xiaobing’s tweet on 5 November suggested that the next “movie” in the “Final Destination” horror franchise would be about the Great Hall of the People collapsing on party delegates.

He tweeted: “An earthshaking debut will be seen at the global premiere on Nov 8!” The congress began on 8 November.

After Zhai’s Twitter account fell silent for a few days, a friend of his, Liu Yanping, grew worried and visited his home in Miyun county in Beijing’s north-eastern suburbs. Family members there told her that Miyun county police had taken Zhai away on 7 November and seized his computer, Liu said.

A Miyun county police officer who would only give his surname, Sun, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Zhai was being investigated for “spreading terrorist information”. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

Zhai’s supporters say the allegation is absurd and more than 400 people have signed an online petition calling on police to release him – and to have more of a sense of humour.

“I was very shocked when I realised what happened to him. I’ve consulted a few lawyers and I feel that it’s clear his Twitter joke does not amount to spreading terrorist information,” Liu said. “It’s just preposterous.”

Liu said she and a few other activists have been in touch with Zhai’s family and would help hire a lawyer. She said state security officials had visited Zhai’s wife to warn her to keep a low profile.

Zhai’s wife, when reached by phone, declined to comment on her husband’s situation.

The online petition, written by the outspoken blogger and free-speech advocate Wen Yunchao, urges the authorities to lighten up.

“We solemnly request that Beijing police find a little sense of humour and not make a big deal out of nothing,” it said. “In particular, do not destroy the goodwill and anticipation the public has for the new office holders after the 18th party congress by limiting and persecuting an ordinary citizen’s normal freedom of speech in such a groundless fashion.”

Further inquiries were directed to the Beijing Public Security Bureau, which did not immediately respond to a faxed list of questions.

A rights group said Zhai’s case could be seen as a test of whetherChina‘s incoming leaders will continue the recent steady crackdown authorities have imposed on the country’s small community of activists, dissidents and lawyers.

“The new leadership has two choices: continue down the path of criminal prosecution to signal that they are unwilling to change, or release Zhai to show goodwill that it is responding to popular demands for greater freedom,” said Maya Wang, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, based in Hong Kong.