Twitter Is Not a Platform, It Is a Publisher

Ditto Facebook and many other sites. With Twitter’s new policy of putting disclaimers on Donald Trump’s tweets, after he engaged in some vile scandalmongering, it’s now clear and undeniable that Twitter is a publisher, not a mere platform. They are literally editing* his tweets.

I’ve always thought that Twitter and Facebook, once they started serving up tweets and posts using an algorithm had become publishers: once you are deciding what people will see for whatever reason–and an algorithm is just the computational form of that–you are no longer just a messenger board. That is, if Twitter and Facebook dropped the algorithm and returned to latest posts or tweets, it would be much harder to hold them legally** liable for their content. In essence, they would just be a very advanced server with a good (or ‘good’) user interface.

But now Twitter has completely blown any such argument out of the water–again, they are literally providing an editorial function (which, of course, they were doing by removing tweets, and, for Facebook, posts).

Time to treat them like publishers, with all that entails. Not great for the business model though…

*That said, it’s not enough. He should, at the very least, be suspended temporarily.

**Morally and ethically responsible however….

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2 Responses to Twitter Is Not a Platform, It Is a Publisher

  1. kaleberg
    kaleberg says:

    Back when search engines just searched for text and sorted things based on graph connections and when forum sites just presented user postings and used simple censoring filters to get rid of the four letter words, it was possible to deny that sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter were publishers. That lasted a bit into the new century, but then, perhaps by 2005, they were all publishers. They invoke the algorithm, but someone has to specify that algorithm, write it and deploy it.

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