Joining the ranks of fellow tech titans Facebook, Google and Microsoft, Twitter has announced that it has formed its own political action committee. The PAC, christened Twitter#PAC, has been formed, according to Twitter, to lobby on a wide range of issues linked primarily to free speech causes.
The PAC has already registered its first lobbyist, Twitter policy manager William Carty. Carty has extensive policy experience, having served as a Republican aide in both the Senate and House commerce committees.
Twitter has an extensive history of outspoken behavior regarding freedom of online speech. On December 14, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a national security letter and subpoena to Twitter demanding the release of the personal information of over 600,000 Twitter users who followed the Wikileaks account for purposes of criminal prosecution. Twitter immediately appealed the gag order that accompanied these communications and was successful, allowing it to publicize the situation.
The response was immediate and wide reaching. Lawmakers of various nationalities rushed to condemn the subpoena and leapt to rally around Twitter’s banner of free speech. Since this incident, Twitter has been a vociferous advocate of online freedom of speech, often promoting policies that contrast starkly with official Washington policy. More recently, Twitter appealed a U.S. District Court order to relinquish the records of a user that was affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The announcement of this new PAC and its aims has drawn some ire from commentators and industry pundits, many of whom have pointed out that this revelation came a scant week after Twitter issued a formal announcement pledging to more closely moderate abusive language and threats. Detractors have declared that this represents blatant hypocrisy. However, initial statements regarding the PAC say very little regarding abusive attacks on other users and rather focus on Internet privacy and freedom from external surveillance.
This move by Twitter serves not only as a confirmation of the ideals that the company is based upon, but a further evolution in the popular site’s social role. With this latest foray into politics, Twitter has continued its transition from a microblogging site to a highly connected force for social change.
[Sources: Washington Post, HuffPost]