[bestbits] Fwd: Join coalition letter to Twitter on Politwoops?

Deji Olukotun deji at accessnow.org
Wed Sep 9 16:02:30 EDT 2015

Hi to All,

Apologies for cross posting. Please find below an open letter to Twitter
about its decision to turn off Politwoops, a crucial tool for holding
politicians accountable in 32 countries. We've had great coverage of the
campaign so far (you can see media hits at the bottom). Help us make a
broader impact.

*Please let us know if your group will sign on by Friday 9am NYC.*

This an important fight for transparency, accountability, and free


Open letter to Twitter to restore Politwoops access to API

*September 2015 *

We, the undersigned, are international human rights and transparency groups
based around the world. We are writing in opposition to Twitter’s recent
decision to revoke the ability of the tool Politwoops and similar tools to
utilize Twitter’s Application Programming Interface, or API. We believe
Twitter’s decision holds grave consequences for free expression and
transparency around the world.


In 2010, the Netherlands-based Open State Foundation created the Politwoops
tool to publish Tweets deleted by politicians. From then onwards, the Open
State Foundation rolled out Politwoops with the help of individuals and
organizations in 32 countries, including the Sunlight Foundation in the
U.S. Twitter then revoked the ability of the Sunlight Foundation to use its
API in May 2015 and it revoked the Open State Foundation’s access to the
API on August 21.

*Transparency and due process*

To justify its decision, Twitter explained
that, “No one user is more deserving of that ability [to delete a tweet]
than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of one’s voice.”

Twitter’s reasoning conflates transparency and accountability with privacy.
We agree that when users decide to delete tweets they are engaging in
expression—but add that the public has a compelling interest in the
expression of public officials. Recognizing this public interest, courts
have long held that public officials do not receive the same treatment for
privacy. Further, when public officials use Twitter to amplify their
political views, they invite greater scrutiny of their expression.
Journalists and civil society utilize tools like Politwoops to understand
the views and commitments of the people these politicians represent—and the
politician or candidate’s own intents and perspective. In this case, the
citizen’s right to freedom of expression —which includes access to
information—outweighs the official’s right to a retroactive edit.

In terms of process, this decision involved minimal dialogue with the Open
State Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation. There was no opportunity to
appeal the decision, which impacted a widely-used, volunteer-run service.
The action carried out by Twitter was arbitrary and cuts against the very
principles of transparency that Politwoops was designed to confront.

We recognize that the API license gives Twitter discretion to enforce its
terms. However, Twitter should also take into account human rights when it
exercises that discretion—and particularly the right of people to access to
information where it serves the interest of public accountability and
transparency in a democratic society. There are times when what is legal
must be outweighed by what is right.


We note that Twitter has been a leader in transparency and free expression
since its founding. The platform has helped foster numerous advances in
journalism and in accountability. This makes the unilateral decision by
Twitter so troubling and off-course. Accordingly, we urge you to:

   - immediately restore access for the Politwoops tool to the Twitter API
   in every country around the world;
   - convene stakeholders to develop a forward-looking API policy, or other
   constructive solution, that allows civil society groups to effectively
   promote accountability and transparency for the public interest;
   - make clear exceptions in the “Twitter Developer Agreement & Policy”
   for information shared in the public interest, such as for transparency or
   journalistic purposes; and
   - participate in multistakeholder organizations which facilitate
   meetings between civil society, investors, academics, and corporations on
   decisions impacting human rights.



Alternatif Bilisim (Turkey)

American Civil Liberties Union

Art 34-bis (Italy)

Asociacion por los Derechos Civiles (Argentina)

Bits of Freedom (Netherlands)

Blueprint for Free Speech (Australia)

Civio Foundation (Spain)

Clean Air Action Group (Hungary)

Derechos Digitales (Latin America)

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Electronic Frontiers Australia


European Federation of Journalists

Fondation Sciences Citoyennes (France)

Free Press

Fundación Ciudadana Civio (Spain)


Hiperderecho (Peru)

Human Rights Watch

Iraqi Network for Social Media

Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet

Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (Netherlands)

Open Knowledge Foundation (Australia)

OpenMedia (Canada)

Open State Foundation

Paradigm Initiative (Nigeria)

Pirate Party (Turkey)

La Quadrature du Net (France)

Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (Mexico)

Sunlight Foundation (U.S.)

Support for Information Technology Center (Egypt)

Vrijschrift (Netherlands)

Web Foundation

*Learn more about the open letter: *Fortune
<http://fortune.com/2015/09/04/twitter-politwoops>, The Verge
Fast Company
The Hill
Business Insider
Washington Post
Dutch Radio 1
The Register
Tech Times
Arizona Wildcat
Nieman Lab

Deji Olukotun
Senior Global Advocacy Manager
Access | accessnow.org

tel: +1 415-935-4572 | @dejiridoo
PGP: 0x6012CDA8
Fingerprint: 3AEE 4194 F70E C806 A810 857A 6AD5 8F48 6012 CDA8

*Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter on digital rights, the Access
Express: accessnow.org/express <https://accessnow.org/express>*
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.igcaucus.org/pipermail/bestbits/attachments/20150909/0ac99efa/attachment.htm>

More information about the Bestbits mailing list