Turkey troubles and a Microsoft tussle: The latest on Twitter

19 May 2023

Image: © Lakee MNP/Stock.adobe.com

A US court ruling has shielded Twitter from dealing with terrorist content, while Musk’s free speech claims are contrasted by the platform complying with Turkey takedown requests.

It has been a busy week for Twitter since the announcement of its new CEO, with a new start-up acquisition and the US supreme court ruling in Twitter’s favour.

Elon Musk’s recent decision to step down as CEO – something planned for months – has reportedly eased some concerns among advertisers. The Financial Times reports that GroupM removed its “high-risk” classifier for Twitter on Monday, after Linda Yaccarino’s appointment was announced.

Supreme Court protects Twitter

In a win for Twitter, recent US supreme court rulings have shielded social media platforms when it comes to terror-related content from appearing on their sites.

In one of two cases, Twitter vs Taamneh, the supreme court ruled that Twitter will not have to face accusations regarding the terrorist group ISIS posting content on the platform.

The court’s opinion was delivered by US federal judge Clarence Thomas, who compared the use of Twitter by terrorist groups to other, easily accessible digital technology.

“It might be that bad actors like ISIS are able to use platforms like defendants’ for illegal – and sometimes terrible – ends,” Thomas said. “But the same could be said of cell phones, email, or the internet generally.

“Yet, we generally do not think that internet or cell service providers incur culpability merely for providing their services to the public writ large.”

In a similar case against Google, the supreme court declined to reinterpret the US internet law Section 230, which essentially states that no provider or user of an interactive computer services will be treated as a publisher. This prevents legal cases against users or services based on what is said online.

The verdicts are a big win for tech companies in the US, as it will protect them for now against certain legal risks when it comes to content being shared on their platforms.

Twitter acquires a new start-up

The company has also made another step towards Musk’s goal of creating a super app, with the acquisition of tech talent recruiting service Laskie, Bloomberg reports.

This marks the first major deal made by Twitter since Musk bought the company for $44bn last year. Laskie’s website is no longer available, but its LinkedIn page says that it provides high-quality matches for thousands of companies and jobseekers.

The company claims it can help businesses get “immediate access to thousands of candidates with more data than just a resume”.

Musk has previously shared plans to use Twitter as a foundation to develop a multi-functional app, in a similar style to China’s popular WeChat.

A tussle with Microsoft

Twitter’s relations with Microsoft have reportedly soured this week, as the social media platform accused the tech giant of violating a developer agreement.

In a letter first reported by The New York Times, Musk’s personal lawyer Alex Spiro sent a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The letter was also shared by The Verge.

In this letter, Spiro claims Microsoft may have been in violation of Twitter’s developer agreement “for an extended period of time.”

This dispute comes one month after Microsoft decided to drop Twitter from its advertising platform. After that announcement, Musk claimed Microsoft trained using “illegal data” and threatened to sue the company.

Content restrictions in Turkey

Twitter also faced some criticism this week for its decision to restrict access to some content in Turkey ahead of elections in the country.

Twitter’s Global Government Affairs account said this action was in response to “legal process” and done to ensure the platform remains available to the people of Turkey. Twitter didn’t specify what content was being restricted.

Musk responded to one tweet and said the choice was “have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets”. But various users said this decision was counter to Musk’s comments about being a “free speech absolutist”.

Recently, reports looking at Twitter’s data claimed the platform has at least partially complied with almost all takedown requests from governments since Musk took over the platform. Roughly half of these requests came from Turkey, AlJazeera reports.

US users taking breaks

Meanwhile, recent research claims that many Twitter users in the US have been reducing their use of the platform over the past year.

A Pew Research Center survey claimed roughly 60pc of US users who used Twitter in the past year said they had taken a break from the platform during that period. The break period was at least several weeks, according to the survey.

Of the 10,701 survey respondents, around 25pc claimed they are not very likely or not at all likely to be on Twitter a year from now.

In March, Musk said the company’s ad revenue had dropped by roughly 50pc and had been on the path to bankruptcy, The New York Times reports.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic