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Twitter’s arrogance threatens us all

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In the pre-digital era, the dictionary defined twit•ter [v.] [twit-er] thus: to talk lightly and rapidly, especially of trivial matters; chatter; to titter; giggle. Tweet[n] is defined as a weak chirping sound as of a young or small bird.

In 2012, ask any twelve-year-old and she’ll tell you that Twitter is an online social networking service  that enables users to send and read text-based messages of a maximum of 140 characters, called "tweets.”

Since it’s founding in 2006, Twitter has joined Facebook, Google and YouTube as the big boys of social media. It has become one of the top ten most-visited websites on the Internet, now boasts over 500 million active  users and generates over 340 million tweets and 1.6+ billion search queries per day.

Impressive by any standard.

But Twitter’s business model is severely lacking in fulfilling its social responsibility.

The latest incident involves its refusal of an emergency request from The New York Police Department to provide the ID of the Twitter user who threatened an attack "just like in Aurora" on the Broadway theater where Mike Tyson's one-man show, "Undisputed Truth," is playing.

"This s**t ain't no joke yo I'm serious people are gonna die just like in aurora,"
the user tweeted Aug. 1st.

A few days earlier, that unidentified person tweeted that he or she knew that the theater left its exit doors unlocked and was going to plan the shooting "step by step."

The NYPD Intelligence Division learned of the threat two days later and used Twitter's own protocols for emergencies to request the identity of the account holder, ABC News reported.
Incredibly, Twitter turned down the request. As a result police had to be deployed to the theater, just in case another Colorado-style massacre was in the offing.

Meanwhile the threatening, but still protected Tweeter, has since assured fellow Twitter users he is dead serious about carrying out the attack and is just fine-tuning his “hit list” which includes Ellen Page, Perez Hilton, Wendy Williams and some Kardashians.

Now, to add taxpayer insult to possible public injury, NYPD had to go to court to force Twitter to identify their account holder. "We take the threat seriously, especially in light of recent attacks in Wisconsin and Colorado," a NYPD spokesman said.

It's difficult to believe that all this is taking place as America grieves over of six people murdered by neo-Nazi Wade Page this past Sunday at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and over the July 20th, murderous shooting rampage by James Holmes at a packed midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12  and injuring 58 innocents. 

In spite of all this, at first, Twitter simply said, "We appreciate the timeliness and sensitivity of this matter, and have reviewed the reported Twitter account. While we do invoke emergency disclosure procedures when it appears that a threat is present, specific and immediate, this does not appear to fall under those strict parameter as per our policies."

I guess they are too busy lawyering-up than to do the right thing.

This isn’t the first time that Twitter’s see- no-evil policy has come under fire.

In 2008, US military Intelligence sounded the alarm that Twitter could become a tool for terrorists.

Indeed, despite Twitter’s beautiful logo of the peaceful dove, al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia and Hezbollah inLebanon have been using the Twitter to further their extremist and violent agendas.

A few months ago, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Terrorism and Hate Project graded three top Social Networking giants for their policies and actions in dealing with hate and terror-related postings.  

Facebook, with nearly one billion pages received an A-. While it is clearly the #1 choice for bigots of all stripes, Facebook has deployed two teams, one in Silicon Valley and another in Ireland to deal with those seeking to leverage their network for the forces of bigotry and terrorism. Of equal importance is that Facebook has clearly enunciated rules and made real people, not nameless -- Wizard of Oz like e-mail addresses, available to address serious inquiries in real-time. As a result, Facebook has removed thousands of pages and even barred some serial haters. 

Meanwhile, YouTube earned a C- because it permits way too many videos that provide tutorials to those who want to create and deploy explosives.

We gave Twitter a N/A grade because, frankly, not one of our inquiries about hate postings was responded to by an actual human being.

Twitter has indicated that they, not trained police professionals, who will decide what constitutes a credible threat.

In the era of the“lone wolf” terrorist, that’s not only pathetic, it is potentially dangerous. A judge in New York agreed on Tuesday and instructed Twitter to turn over the threatening Tweeter's ID to the police. 

So here's my Tweet to Twitter:

AYKM? ICYMI bad dudes’ tweets threaten US/ make Twitter SFW and play/ remember YOLO/ TYIA*

(For literal translation go to www.Twittonary.com)

In other words: Do the right thing before something else goes horribly wrong!

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Follow the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Facebook and on Twitter.