I’m back on Twitter after having my account suspended for 4 days because I posted a picture of myself, masked and proudly displaying my vaccination card, after receiving my second Covid-19 shot.
I don’t have a screenshot of the post, but it looked identical to this one on Facebook:
I had my account suspended until I either deleted the post, or successfully appealed it, for “violating our policy on spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19”.
Deleting the post without question would have had my account restored within 12 hours. Appealing the decision took 4 days and despite Twitters own rules allowing for the use of satire, my appeal failed.
I understand the desire to protect your users from misinformation, but in what universe (besides Twitters), does a photo of someone proudly displaying their vaccination record (even with a satirical commentary) constitute the spread of misinformation?
Knowing that even satirical posts (which are explicitly allowed by their policy) will result in a suspension from the service has a chilling effect on my use of the service.
Since deleting my post in order to have my account reinstated, I’ve found myself wondering about posting to twitter at all. Should I drop the service, which I have been using since March 2007? Not even the normally draconian Facebook found my post to be an issue.
I even debated whether or not to mention Twitter in the title of this post for fear of falling afoul of the moderation gods.
The internet does it’s best this week to prove that “STOOPID” reigns supreme online as armchair activists drop their Cheetos, remove the wedgie from their tighty whities, and grab their keyboards to spew forth their vitriol and ignorance in support of Phil Robertson from A&E’s “reality” show “Duck Dynasty”.
As Paul, Steven and Daniel gently toss their ZZ Top beards into the discussions which revolve around freedom of speech and the 1st Amendment of the United States, Satanists raise money for their monument on Indiegogo, a mom gets arrested when a topless picture of her and her 14 year old daughter ends up on SnapChat, and the UK decides that adults are too stupid to decide what they want to view online.
The last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright war, but the war turns out only to have been a skirmish. The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.
The problem is twofold: first, there is no known general-purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones; second, general-purpose computers have replaced every other device in our world. There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears. There are no 3D printers, only computers that drive peripherals. There are no radios, only computers with fast ADCs and DACs and phased-array antennas. Consequently anything you do to “secure” anything with a computer in it ends up undermining the capabilities and security of every other corner of modern human society.
And general purpose computers can cause harm — whether it’s printing out AR15 components, causing mid-air collisions, or snarling traffic. So the number of parties with legitimate grievances against computers are going to continue to multiply, as will the cries to regulate PCs.
The primary regulatory impulse is to use combinations of code-signing and other “trust” mechanisms to create computers that run programs that users can’t inspect or terminate, that run without users’ consent or knowledge, and that run even when users don’t want them to.
The upshot: a world of ubiquitous malware, where everything we do to make things better only makes it worse, where the tools of liberation become tools of oppression.
Our duty and challenge is to devise systems for mitigating the harm of general purpose computing without recourse to spyware, first to keep ourselves safe, and second to keep computers safe from the regulatory impulse.