Thirty years ago, would a young and less mealy-mouthed Joe Lieberman, the disgrace of Connecticut, propose criminalizing BIC pens, or maybe IBM Selectrics, for facilitating communication by terrorists? Ridiculous as that sounds, it’s hardly impossible.
Via Kevin O’Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs (yes, that Kevin O’Keefe),
Now Shurat HaDin, an Israeli law center, is threatening to sue Twitter unless the social network cuts off access to terrorist groups, including Hezbollah.…[I]t has come to our attention that Twitter, Inc. provides social media and associated services to such groups as Hezbollah and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab — labeled as “foreign terrorist organizations” (or FTOs) by the United States.
Please be advised that providing social media and other associated services to terrorist groups is illegal and will expose Twitter, Inc. and its officers to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others victimized by terrorisms carried out by Hezbollah, Al-Shabaab or other FTOs.
This comes on the heels of some other developments at the forefront of blaming the tools of communications as the culprit in the spread of ideas some prefer not to hear, even despise.
- A week ago, Sen. Joe Lieberman began an effort in Congress requiring Twitter to block pro-Taliban accounts.
- Earlier today, a Boston Court refused to a quash a subpoena demanding account information of a Twitter user involved in Occupy Boston.
- Earlier this month, three WikiLeaks associates filed an appeal of a court order that would force Twitter to hand over information from their accounts without a search warrant.
You had to know that Joe Lieberman would manage to stick his smarmy nose in the middle of anything remotely stinking of censorship and prior restraint.
To the extent there is a culprit in this effort to silence the sounds that offend official ears, it certainly isn’t twitter. Or Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other medium, any more than one can blame a BIC pen for writing words we don’t like. They’re just the tools by which things get passed around, in this case those “tubes” that comprise the “internets” that Washington leaders have heard so much about.
So why Twitter? Because they can. They know where to find it. They know how to threaten it. They know that it is run by real people, identifiable and locatable, who they believe can be made to cower and cringe.
And the funny thing is (using “funny” in an ironic, awful way), the Joe Lieberman’s of the Senate, the judiciary, the government, are likely right. The laws are already in place, and continuing to be developed, for the purpose of criminalizing the medium by which communications used by our “enemies” are transmitted. It would feel better if these were happening in far off backwater nations, but they’re championed by our very own “leaders,” who do so in the name of protecting good from evil at any cost.
Every day, tens of thousands of new twitter accounts are opened, the only criteria being possession of a keyboard and internet access. Any fool can open a twitter account, and they do. So too can a terrorist, a criminal, and a philosopher. And it’s killing our martinets that they can’t reach into their computers and grab by the scruff of the neck every voice they find despicable. They are outraged that our fabulous American technologies are being subverted for use by our enemies, and fully expect true patriots to throw upon their doors upon demand so they can root out these evil doers on their networks.
And what’s wrong with ridding society of those who would harm us? Why should businesses be immune from challenge, above participation in cleansing of evil from out midst?
Had the target been telcos, they would have not only bent over backwards to offer up any information sought by law enforcement, but served coffee and donuts to the hard-working men and women sifting through records. Of course, their kindness would be repaid by retroactive immunity for violations of old laws never intended to criminalize cooperation with the government. How could cooperation with the government be wrong?
The new “tubes” that make up the interwebz haven’t been nearly as compliant. Whether they aren’t as inclined to bend over at the first sight of a federal agent, or believe that the moment they become willing supplicants to governmental involvement, the integrity of their glorious experiment is lost.
Twitter, in particular, has demonstrated it’s fortitude in refusing to yield to the demands and threats. Given it’s position at the crossroad of technology and communication, it seems nearly impossible that twitter’s intransigence won’t make Lieberman’s blood boil and launch a thousand new regulations designed to make its officers shake in their boots.
Of course, there will come to a point where the volume of subpoenas, lawsuits, prosecutions, laws, regulations, investigations, indictments, perhaps some new Writs the Lieberman’s of government will dream up, will suffocate a new and thriving medium until it chokes. Or there will be final showdown where our elected officials, and their appointed minions, come to grips with the fact that their compulsion to blame the messenger, the medium, because they are legitimate and findable and real, will be a death blow to invention and progress.
Let twitter stand firm in its refusal to capitulate to Joe Leiberman and his ilk. Let them pass law after law criminalizing any enterprise that spells out the name or our sworn enemies, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah or Taliban, Occupy Somewhere, Anonymous or Wikileaks. And the prosecute them. Along with the roads they drive on, and the BIC pen in their pocket, and the light bulb makers that illuminate their evil caves at night.
These sputtering saviors of American order can rationalize how they do all this to save us from evil and protect us from our enemies. That’s always been a favored excuse, so no person is ever hurt again. When they come for Twitter, I hope Alexander Macgillivray gives me a call. If Twitter is up for the fight, so am I.