Jeffrey Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, joined WBUR Morning Edition host Bob Oakes to discuss the ruling.
Matthew Battles: The visualization was coded in Processing by our former research fellow Travis Bost. We used Harvard library collections data made available through an API developed by the Library Innovation Lab, a group headed by David Weinberger in the Law Library. This API gave us access to library records, which we searched, downloaded, and cleaned up until we had what we thought was a reasonable representation of editions that actually were printed in early-modern Europe controlling for latter-day reprints, reissues, scholarly editions, and the like; we also sought to exclude Asian materials and items in manuscript.
The resulting backlash over the Adams affair and the general discomfort about the Occupy situation highlight perhaps the only real check on Twitter’s ability to control its users: the users themselves. All of our lingering confusion over the First Amendment means the market for these services speaks very strongly when those values appear to be infringed, even if Twitter has the right to do whatever it wants. “I think it’s a welcome idea for Twitter to say that it chooses to take First Amendment values seriously,” says Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain. “We don’t tell people they can’t speak because of the political content of their views.” The EFF’s Timm agrees, noting that “Twitter is the best of the large services. They try to stay true to the First Amendment as much as possible.”
“I think it’s as contrary to the First Amendment as openness is the enemy to extremism and fundamentalism,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School and a founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “The F.B.I. is going to learn more about Hamas and any organizations, by having them operate in an open environment, than if its voice is driven to proxies and underground backchannels, which would inevitably happen immediately.”