Rights groups including Access, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, Human Rights Watch, Sunlight Foundation, and Open State Foundation have joined in opposition to Twitter’s recent crackdown on Politwoops, a network of sites that archived deleted tweets from politicians worldwide. In an open letter, the coalition says Twitter’s ban “holds grave consequences for free expression and transparency around the world.”
Politwoops is an innovative platform that has enabled civil society to see Tweets deleted by politicians. From the U.S. to Australia, and from the Netherlands to Korea, journalists have used Politwoops to understand the views of elected officials and candidates. The coalition’s open letter responds to Twitter’s decision to revoke Politwoops’ access to the API, which instantly disabled the tool in the 32 countries where it is being used.
“The right to information, free speech, and privacy protect people and enable them to hold the powerful to account,” said Arjan El Fassed, Executive Director of Netherlands-based Open State Foundation. Open State Foundation is the organization behind Politwoops. “By blocking Politwoops, Twitter has decided to forsake these values, and the only people who will benefit are the powerful.”
Other major signers include Alternatif Bilisim (Turkey), Art 34-bis (Italy), Asociacion por los Derechos Civiles (Argentina), Blueprint for Free Speech (Australia), Derechos Digitales (Latin America), Jinbonet (Korea), OpenMedia (Canada), Paradigm Initiative (Nigeria), Pirate Party (Turkey), and Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (Mexico).
“Twitter made a unilateral decision that impacted transparency around the world in 32 countries,” said Deji Olukotun, Senior Global Advocacy Manager for Access. “Politwoops is a global tool for the digital age, and Twitter has clamped down on a volunteer-run service that operates in the public interest.”
“The principles of accountability and transparency had the rug swept out from under them,” explained Peter Micek, Senior Policy Counsel at Access. “We have lost a measure of trust in Twitter as a platform for free expression and innovation after this off-course decision.”
“Politicians make decisions for all of us every day,” said Dr. Suelette Dreyfus, Executive Director of Blueprint for Free Speech. “We need to know what’s in their heads yesterday, today, and beyond. If they take us into a war, we have a right to know the reasons they gave at the time, not how they spin it later.”