As the US government continues its assault on Wikileaks, Twitter is taking a stand for the privacy rights of its users – whistleblowers included.
After August’s leak of sensitive documents surrounding the long-running war in Afghanistan, then the astounding leak of the US State department diplomatic cables in November, Wikileaks quickly became the US’s public enemy number one, and the poster boy for assorted critics of US policy the world over.
And though the spectacular leak has caused severe damage to the US’s international reputation, finding a specific law which Wikileaks has broken has proved difficult for US prosecutors. The war on Wikileaks, and its high-profile director, Julian Assange, has so far been conducted on less public terrain, with Wikileaks supporters accusing US officials of harassment, surveillance, veiled threats and hacking attempts in their bids to stop the flow of information from the whistleblower site.
And that assault has now extended to social networking services.
In December, US authorities contacted Twitter and demanded that the micro-blogging service secretly hand over the contents of Assange’s, and his associates’, private Twitter account content.
Much to its credit, Twitter resisted. It secured a lifting of the gag order and informed the Wikileaks operator of the request, and promised to hand over nothing if Assange and Co. filed a timely legal challenge, which they did.
Love or hate Julian Assange, Twitter’s refusal to turn over private user information at the request of the US government is admirable.
While Facebook finds itself embroiled in privacy scandal after privacy scandal, and as governments around the world use changing perceptions about privacy rights as an excuse to dramatically expand their ability to snoop on citizens’ affairs, Twitter seems to be putting its energies where they should be – in defending the privacy rights of its users.
Other social media services should take note.