Having been caught in a crossfire over internet free speech and Russian conspiracy theories, Twitter has quietly made a significant change in its stated "Twitter Rules" terms of service.
Following several Congressional hearings meant to root out "Russian interference" by Twitter accounts, as well as an incident in which a disgruntled, now former employee, disabled Donald Trump's twitter account for 11 minutes, it appears that Twitter no longer believes in "speaking truth to power."
The change can be seen in Twitter's TOS, in the “Abusive Behavior” section, which currently states that “We believe in freedom of expression and open dialogue, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up.”
This is a material change from what this section stated as recently as November 2, when the section read “We believe in freedom of expression and in speaking truth to power"...
... with believing in "speaking truth to power" replaced with "open dialogue."
The change took place just two days after November 1, when Twitter, along with Google and Facebook, were questioned by Congress in the ongoing witch-hunt, as dubbed by Donald Trump, for “Russian influence” that may have led to interference in the 2016 presidential election. As @Jack twitted at the time, the changes to Twitter’s rules were made as part of a November 3 attempt to “clarify” them.
We just published a clearer version of the Twitter Rules to clarify our policies and how we enforce them https://t.co/gPv9nt3y1M— jack (@jack) November 3, 2017
In a statement, the company said that it wanted to make it clear that “context is crucial when evaluating abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions.”
In its testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Twitter unveiled that it used a vast array of tenuous criteria to define accounts as “Russia-linked,” and also admitted it had censored the hashtags #PodestaEmails and #DNCLeaks tweets during the 2016 US presidential election campaign in an effort to limit public exposure to leaked documents describing the Democratic National Committee’s efforts to boost Clinton as the Democratic Party’s preferred candidate during the primaries, a process which was subsequently defined as rigged by none other than Elizabeth Warren following blockbuster claims by interim DNC chair Donna Brazile. Twitter Associate General Counsel Sean Edgett claimed many of those tweets were “automated” and hidden by anti-spam systems. He also admitted that less than 4 percent of them came from potential “Russian-linked” accounts.
Last week Twitter also announced it was banning all ads from RT and Sputnik, citing the same allegations of meddling in the 2016 US election. That, despite the company previously trying to engage RT in a special US election advertising package, which RT said it had declined.
Later on the same day Twitter revised its TOS language, Twitter announced that while it may no longer speak "truth to power", the reason why power was not allowed to speak for 11 minutes, i.e. when Donald Trump's account was deactivated for 11 minutes, was due to a departing employee's decision that it was in Twitter's best interest to shut up the US president.
Earlier today @realdonaldtrump’s account was inadvertently deactivated due to human error by a Twitter employee. The account was down for 11 minutes, and has since been restored. We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.— Twitter Government (@TwitterGov) November 3, 2017
Through our investigation we have learned that this was done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day. We are conducting a full internal review. https://t.co/mlarOgiaRF— Twitter Government (@TwitterGov) November 3, 2017
A separate update will be issued on November 14 with more details on how the company reviews and enforces policies, according to Twitter.