Summary of How Despots Use Twitter to Hunt Dissidents

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How Despots Use Twitter to Hunt Dissidents summary
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Reporters Benjamin Elgin and Peter Robison explain how shady government agencies – as in an Orwellian nightmare – can monitor outspoken citizens on Twitter and find out where they live. The “Firehose” is the profitable part of Twitter, capturing details from users’ profiles and devices, which the company packages for sale to social media monitoring companies. Those companies then sell the data to advertisers, governments and law enforcement agencies. The two authors expose Twitter’s leadership as dangerously naive and idealistic about free speech. getAbstract recommends this exposé to social media users everywhere.

About the Authors

Benjamin Elgin is an investigative reporter at Businessweek and Bloomberg News. Peter Robison is a Seattle bureau chief and reporter for Bloomberg News, Businessweek, and @Business.



What’s in a tweet? Twitter paints itself as a global hub for freedom of speech. However, abuse is common. Worse, governments can use the platform to track persons of interest. This is possible thanks to Twitter selling its “Firehose” data – the information contained in users’ tweets – to businesses that track social media. The Firehose captures more than 30 pieces of information about each user and his or her device. Agencies can cross-check users’ accounts on other social media platforms to find out who and where they are.

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