Although Blackberry Messenger has been in the hot seat for being the medium of choice for London looters to communicate their next attack, Twitter was used extensively by the rioters as well. And, sticking to its position on the freedom of expression of its users from earlier this year, Twitter says it will not shut down the accounts of any of the rioters.
Speaking to the Telegraph, a Twitter spokesperson has reiterated the company’s mantra that the tweets must continue to flow.
The spokesperson referred to the blog post that co-founder Biz Stone wrote in response to the protests in Egypt earlier this year. It said, in part:
“Our goal is to instantly connect people everywhere to what is most meaningful to them. For this to happen, freedom of expression is essential. Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country, some make us laugh, some make us think, some downright anger a vast majority of users. We don’t always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.
Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users’ right to speak freely and preserve their ability to contest having their private information revealed. While we may need to release information as required by law, we try to notify Twitter users before handing over their information whenever we can so they have a fair chance to fight the request if they so choose.”
Despite the fact that Twitter’s general position is to only reveal the personal information of their users after they have been notified, the spokesperson refused to confirm or deny whether the company was working with police to locate individuals who were using Twitter to organize looting, or whether they had already handed over details of some of these users to the authorities.
The London police have released a statement saying that they are currently monitoring Twitter for incriminating tweets and pictures of the looters, and will be arresting those tweeting about their exploits shortly.
Still, it appears that Twitter is sticking staunchly to its freedom of expression stance, and it’s a good bet that they won’t release information until they have notified the users affected.