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Twitter: when Russia’s law becomes global

jump to:

  1. Twitter’s terms
  2. Twitter’s rules
  3. Study case: Twitter and ISIS supporters
  4. Porn on Twitter
  5. Loli/shota porn on Twitter
  6. Russia’s freedom of expression
  7. When a Russian law enforcement agency gets a Swiss user’s tweet removed worldwide
  8. update #1 – March 03, 2016
  9. update #2 – April 28, 2016
  10. update #3 – June 17, 2016

Twitter’s terms

Twitter is one of the most popular social network service on the web, claiming 302 million active users as of May 2015, stashing up above US$250 million in revenue per year (2014), over 23 billion US$ in market capitalization, yet the service struggles to find a good business model since years and it’s debt got a “junk” rating by S&P. We’re not gonna talk finances about Twitter, this is merely to hint Twitter’s plans: they need to expand, find sustainable revenue sources and new investors. And getting shut down in a whole country would be a massive setback for Twitter, therefor Twitter has to make sure to remain fully compliant of local laws and show a “clean” face to attract investors.

Twitter’s headquarters are in San Francisco, California, USA. California surely doesn’t look like the most conservative place on Earth, yet of course Twitter sets rules on what’s acceptable on it’s network, and what’s not. Like many other social networks, it’s terms of service are pretty broad and don’t make freedom of expression a major criteria. See:

You may use the Services only in compliance with these Terms and all applicable local, state, national, and international laws, rules and regulations.

This is pretty clear: when using Twitter, you DON’T profit from California’s laws: you local laws and regulations still apply. Chinese Human Rights activists should think twice before using the service.

We do not endorse, support, represent or guarantee the completeness, truthfulness, accuracy, or reliability of any Content or communications posted via the Services or endorse any opinions expressed via the Services. You understand that by using the Services, you may be exposed to Content that might be offensive, harmful, inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate, or in some cases, postings that have been mislabeled or are otherwise deceptive.

Still following ? Twitter here states that you can’t sue them if you get shocked by a tweet. They waive and transfer all responsibility towards the tweet author.

Please review the Twitter Rules (which are part of these Terms) to better understand what is prohibited on the Twitter Services.

Harmless line, right ? Well, a service can more easily modify “rules” than it’s Terms of Service, meaning they can change policies whenever they want, without changing the contract binding you to them. More on the said “rules” later.

We reserve the right at all times (but will not have an obligation) to remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services, to suspend or terminate users, and to reclaim usernames without liability to you. We also reserve the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as we reasonably believe is necessary to (i) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request, (ii) enforce the Terms, including investigation of potential violations hereof, (iii) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, (iv) respond to user support requests, or (v) protect the rights, property or safety of Twitter, its users and the public.

Foundations of their rules: if they restrict or close your account, you can’t sue them. Also, they collect and store all possible information about you, and this is especially interesting for NSA (although NSA’s PRISM program is to collect such information directly “from the physical wire” without even having to subpoena or contact Twitter).

We may suspend or terminate your accounts or cease providing you with all or part of the Services at any time for any or no reason, including, but not limited to, if we reasonably believe: (i) you have violated these Terms or the Twitter Rules, (ii) you create risk or possible legal exposure for us; or (iii) our provision of the Services to you is no longer commercially viable.

That’s quite a Damocles sword swinging there: your whole account can be restricted or suspended, any time, without prior notice, for any reason, or no reason. The “including but not limited to” is there to not scare you away, they just list examples of reasons they don’t even need to kick you out. They don’t need a reason to trash your content. Here again they cite the rules they can change anytime however they want, but also very vague reasons like “possible legal exposure” (for any country worldwide), or…. if Twitter’s not making enough money out of you. Let me translate this to you: if you use an ad-blocker like AdBlock or obfuscate your origin and traceability with a proxy, VPN, TOR or public network, you negatively impact your “commercial value” to Twitter and can be suspended immediately. That’s what the ToS allows, even if Twitter currently doesn’t really enforce it. See:

The failure of Twitter to enforce any right or provision of these Terms will not be deemed a waiver of such right or provision.

Told ya. Oh, and finally:

We may revise these Terms from time to time, the most current version will always be at twitter.com/tos. If the revision, in our sole discretion, is material we will notify you via an @Twitter update or e-mail to the email associated with your account. By continuing to access or use the Services after those revisions become effective, you agree to be bound by the revised Terms.

That’s why separating the ToS and Twitter’s “rules” is important to them: revisions in the ToS get announced in their Twitter account and by email, this is bad publicity. The “rules”, on the other hand, can and are modified without notice, without publicity, and by still using Twitter you are deemed agreeing to them. Time to look at those “rules”.

Twitter’s rules

To stay out of trouble, Twitter says you must respect the rules. They are many, ranging from impersonation, threatening, copyright infringement to the subtle “unlawful uses”.

Your account may be suspended for Terms of Service violations if any of the above is true. [..] Accounts engaging in any of these behaviors may be investigated for abuse. Accounts under investigation may be removed from Search for quality. Twitter reserves the right to immediately terminate your account without further notice in the event that, in its judgment, you violate these Rules or the Terms of Service.

Here again, words have weight: they may investigate before suspending an account, which says that they don’t have to investigate before doing so. Who’s investigating ? It’s not stated but I think it’s Twitter’s dedicated moderation team. Those people are not judges, and very likely have no legal training. There can be a significant risk of errors and.. misjudgement. In any case, it’s you versus Twitter: you have no legal representation, no lawyer, no court hearing, no neutral judge. It all takes place away from government and justice overseeing. Don’t hope recovering your account by pleading freedom of expression.

Study case: Twitter and ISIS supporters

ISIS, also referred to as ISIL, Islamic State group, Da’eesh, or self named الدولة الإسلامية (ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah), is a terrorist group whose goal is to establish a caliphate in the Middle-East. I won’t go in details in the political context in that region because it’s extremely complicated and evolving, let’s just keep in mind that this group’s diplomacy is based on beheading or burning shia muslims, kurds, jordanians, christians, and whoever they can take hostage. And also: murdering people and exploding stuff in western countries (hence → terrorists).

A golden rule in terrorism is getting news media talk about you, because it’s the best way to be known and feared from a people. Terrorism is not about causing damage: it’s about creating nationwide instability by making people afraid. Social media is therefor a very interesting solution for terrorist groups because it allows them to spread gruesome content directly to the people. To shock the people, or to find new recruits. The fast-paced Twitter network now with picture feature is very convenient for this, ISIS members and supporters quickly became skilled community managers and still give Twitter headaches in a not-funny whack-a-mole game of opening Twitter accounts, tweeting content as fast as possible, and then changing username or spreading new account name before Twitter can suspend.

On what grounds does Twitter suspend ISIS supporter’s accounts ? Most often: “violence and threats”. This is especially true after Twitter’s own employees and CEO got death threats. Serious shit is going on, and Twitter is closely collaborating with FBI and secret services around the world to identify supporters, suspend accounts, monitor content, and hinder ISIS’ “media plans” as much it can.

But.. does any court confirm those accounts are really used by ISIS supporters ? No. What if it’s just a journalist who republishes Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi‘s speeches for illustration purposes in an attempt to stay neutral and objective ? In the media fight against ISIS, some governments ask companies to censor websites and accounts on really questionable criteria depending how much they are “against”.. if I can quote George W. Bush: “Either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists”.

Let’s now keep digging a bit further.

Porn on Twitter

Very quickly: Twitter allows pornographic content in tweets as long as they are marked as “sensitive”. Pornographic content in the banner, in the profile picture or in the background is forbidden in the “rules”, and I suspect (but can’t confirm) this led to many accounts being suspended lately, notably of hentai authors, or @theimoutomaster‘s former account (@zakaichou). Now down to specifics.

Loli/shota porn on Twitter

(take note we talk here about fictional drawings only, absolutely not about real child porn)

Browsing Twitter’s rules and guidelines, I find nothing referring specially to fictional content. The policy about child sexual exploitation doesn’t have broader interpretation scope and targets only actual child porn and/or accounts/tweets promoting child sexual exploitation services.

Back to the general rules, I notice this wording:

Unlawful Use: You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.

Strictly interpretative, this means that international users must obey ALL LAWS FROM ALL COUNTRIES. Legal nuclear warhead, may I say: anything you tweet can and is illegal somewhere in the world. Please Twitter, re-word this so users only have to apply their country’s laws. This takes us to the country withheld content: Twitter has the power and ability to restrict access to a tweet in a specific country, to respect local laws.

If you represent a government or law enforcement agency and would like to have potentially illegal content or accounts removed from Twitter, we ask that you first review the Twitter Rules and, if applicable, submit a request to have the content reviewed for possible violations of our Terms of Service, here: https://support.twitter.com/forms.

If you have already submitted a request and have received a response from us indicating that the content in question does not currently violate our Terms of Service, you can submit a request for content to be withheld through our web form: https://support.twitter.com/forms/lawenforcement

(note the “potentially illegal”)

So in the chain of powers, if a law enforcement agency wants a content be removed, Twitter:

  1. checks if it’s forbidden to it’s ToS, and if no:
  2. makes it unavailable in the country

Again, I remind you that I didn’t found specific provisions in Twitter’s ToS and Rules regarding fictional content, so as long loli/shota is legal in California and in the user’s country, Twitter shall not remove or suspend. But.. Twitter doesn’t need a reason to suspend an account. And Twitter’s moderation team are human beings. Most likely employees of Twitter, as close as possible to the user’s or plaintiff’s country.

Case study:

  • loli/shota porn is illegal in UK
  • Twitter very likely has moderation team members from the UK
  • UK law enforcement agency reports english account
  • english account gets investigated by english employee, found infringing
  • → account suspended
  • → possible prosecution

Time to make things more complicated.

Russia’s freedom of expression

Aside being a vodka-addicted country for obvious and economic reasons, Russia has long been a safe haven to child sex exploitation after USSR-breakdown, so legislators got very itchy about protecting youth. The principle of this is good, but the side-effects are not: Russia has one of the most offensive anti-LGBT regulations worldwide, stating that homosexuals “organize as a “lobby” to corrupt youth and recruit very young boys for their sexual appetite”. Homosexuals rarely get protected in Russia, if not beaten-up by the police itself.

So, to “counter the gay lobby’s propaganda”, it is strictly forbidden to speak out for LGBT rights, and I suspect wearing rainbow-sockets is enough to put you in serious trouble in the streets. Russia is also known for handling websites with an iron fist for “protecting youth“. The message is: “no matter how big you are, if you don’t comply to our law, we shut down access to your entire website in Russia”. Twitter surely doesn’t want that. Twitter needs the russian market. So I guess Twitter complies and makes LGBTIQ accounts unavailable in Russia, and suspends russian LGBTIQ user accounts that out themselves too publicly.

Russia does whatever the fuck it wants to do in Russia, let’s give them that.

When a Russian law enforcement agency gets a Swiss user’s tweet removed worldwide

What the fuck, right ? Well, it happened to @Meidocafe. The most otakish otaku of Switzerland saw himself notified by Twitter that, after a complaint from Federal Services for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communication (Roskomnadzor), Russia, a tweet of his got deleted. Worldwide. Here the full notices:

Roskomnadzor basically told Twitter: “you better delete those tweets within 24 hours or Twitter gets shut down in whole Russia”, to which Twitter complied by.. deleting tweets and suspending most accounts, worldwide. Twitter could have been restricting access to those tweets in Russia, no, it pulled the trigger and killed them all, @Meidocafe being lucky only the tweet was removed.

Which tweet ? Thanks to Google’s cache, I was able to recover it:

What the bloody hell. So I checked the other accounts…

  • thorpe_lilly: account suspended, unknown country, tweeted only pictures that were removed by Twitter
  • algo_ero: suspended, bio written in Spanish, tweet not in cache, judge the RTs
  • flat_is_justice: suspended, tweets in English, location “Costa Rica”, tweet not in cache,home, had this as background
  • smexykittengirl: suspended, tweets in English, tweet not in cache, bio
  • FapAttacknigga: suspended, nothing exploitable in cache, bio
  • 2D_Lolicon_Pic: suspended, nothing in cache
  • ShinigamiNSFW: suspended, Spanish, bio
  • LoliconForever: suspended, nothing in cache
  • sonic77221: suspended, not much in cache, home
  • exia001122: suspended, written in Korean, nothing exploitable in cache
  • amo_lolis: suspended, written in Spanish, bio
  • AmberDracul: suspended, written in English, bio
  • hentai_050: suspended, written in Japanese (likely a bot), bio
  • KissyKaede: suspended, written in English, home
  • rngus128: suspended, written in Korean, bio

And so on. ALL accounts were suspended, except Meidocafe’s. Each and every time, it was 2D loli. Sometimes there was an explicit profile pic, background or banner (that is against Twitter’s rules), but all all all of it seems to be fictional fantasy 2D loli only, and not even mostly explicit. Look back at Meidocafe’s removed tweet. That’s all it takes for Roskomnadzor to force Twitter to remove tweet and (more likely) suspend your account worldwide, doesn’t matter where you live, doesn’t matter if it’s legal in your country.

Twitter, I have to ask you: what law enforcement agencies have such power ? Who did validate the worldwide account suspension ? What is your policy regarding 2D loli ? Does Naho-chan in bikini puts me at risk that Saudi Arabia’s law enforcement agency obtains worldwide suspending of my account ?

Thank you for reading this far, stay safe and do regular backups !

update #1 – March 03, 2016

Yesterday, it came to my attention that yet another case of Twitter account suspension after Roskomnadzor notification: user @catchan_ found themselves banned with the following message:

CciKJHCWEAAeu1y

It’s worth noting that user lives in the UK, where 2D loli drawings are illegal nevertheless.

update #2 – April 28, 2016

On that day we got forwarded a complaint originating from the Roskomnadzor, targeting the following URL:

  • h++ps://blog.onahole.eu/reviews/onaholes/my-big-brother-is-pervert

To prevent our blog from getting completely blocked by Russian ISPs, we disabled that URL and moved the review to a new location. By clicking the following link to the new location, you certify that you are not currently in Russia.

update #3 – June 17, 2016

On that day we got forwarded a complaint originating from the Roskomnadzor, targeting the following URL:

  • h++ps://blog.onahole.eu/reviews/onaholes/puni-ana-dx-hard

We decided to not continue the “cat and mouse game”, and let our blog being censored in Russia.

AkaiHebi

Author: AkaiHebi

European otaku exploring Japan's most amazing anime sex toys for fun, since 2011. Feminist and sex-positivist. Pansexual. Genderbender. Freedoms activist. オナホ レビュー 著者 「onaho-review-author」

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18 Comments
  1. Alala, nothing comfortable here.
    Tumblr, Twitter, Google and other, seriously, have they any trouble with sex or else ?
    Well, so many things and service on the internet which did, do or will deceive us.

    Internet, freedom of speech place … well, not that much anymore. As far as it seems.
    And that sucks.

    Hope your account won’t be suspended.

    I don’t post many things on Twitter, and i delated most of my tweets (safe tumblr’s links and the other).
    I mainly read daily what some people say.
    (People than i follow, including you 😉 ).

    Facebook, i don’t have any account. Google, just for mails and some tchats on lives from a youtube channel.

    I wonder sometimes if i should better delate my twitter account.
    And my Tumblr account too.

    In anycase, i’ll decide (or i won’t do anything, maybe).
    Even if i didn’t post any of my privacy online.
    Safe maybe my otaku interests ^^ but not too much of those interests …

    I shall say, May 1968 wasn’t efficient enough, taboos still remain, inegality too … not only about sex (even if we are in the thematic here ^^ ) and i probably forget many points.

    Humans are so stupid (not all but most of them).

    I am human myself, and trying not to be stupid, even if that won’t avoid us many shitty things, except maybe the dark side.

    Like a certain professor Slughorn said “we all have light and dark side, i tend to stay on the light side”, something like that.

    OK, it is maybe me who think that about my comments but, like many other posts, that won’t probably good.
    And my english remains so terrific -.-‘

    Have a good day everyone ^^ or afternoon, or evening, or night … well anytime you read it >.<

  2. Every social media platform has vague rules. Never ask moderators for help, always prepare for a random ban and keep backups. Every site explicitly states in their “Terms of Service” that they hold the right to ban accounts for any reason, or no reason at all.

    Power is the only law there is. Money, connections, popularity; with those, you can bend the rules of men to your liking. That’s just the world we live in.

  3. Welp i’m sure glad i don’t use twitter or facebook. Never felt the need and it sure isn’t going to start now.

  4. Just a little question, how were you able to see the google cache of those? No matter what I try it won’t work anyhow.

    • AkaiHebi

      The more you wait, the more you have the risk that Google crawled the page again and removed it from it’s cache. Usually after 1 day, many removed pages disappear from Google’s cache. After 4 or so days, you have zero chance to recover anything.

      So now, it’s too late.

      • You’re right. I checked the google cache for recent bans and the cache still work. The russian gestapo is still working hard at banning content they dislike.

  5. Hi ,I’m Jap.
    Recently, the famous hentai manga artist has been BAN one after another.They query the Twitter. but Reply is only template message. So we do not know the cause. They also might be Russian work victims. If this is ture,Fuck that.

    http://nlab.itmedia.co.jp/nl/spv/1507/03/news153.html

    • AkaiHebi

      Nothing explicit in profile picture, banner and background 🙁
      The only thing we can do is to reach Twitter support and pressure them to re-enable the accounts.

    • This is really bad for twitter to do this. :(.. Seems every rule even illogical regarding censorship lately is trying to cut the west off from Japan. I am sure it is discouraging to some Japanese artists to associate with the west when their twitter account gets banned due to western laws.

      Please don’t give up though!

    • Thank you for reporting this. We rarely get any information about anti-loli actions in Japan, so every event reported is worthwhile.

  6. So we deleted and stopped posting nude anime drawings. Hopefully that will deter twitter from blocking us. Thanks for the heads up.

    • They have won when you start self censoring.
      Russian here.
      Don’t hate us, hate our government, it’s beyond retarded and we live in this country.
      And for you, westerners and 1st worlders, you at least can try and do something about big corporations through laws.

  7. So why does this even matter? Is Twitter some kind of human right at being heard by a bunch of bots?

    Why would anyone care if a website can delete your funny meme tweets at any time at it’s digression. It surely is a weird world.

    • AkaiHebi

      Does matter if you use Twitter to stay in touch with people, share your thoughts, learn things, and so on. And yes it’s a human right: freedom of expression.

    • Except recently there has been dozens of actual Japanese artists getting perma-banned by twitter thanks to Russia censor agency.

  8. I’m russian, and i’m disaffected so much as you are, but what can we do? 95% are idiots

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