Twitter CEO says SOPA blackout protest idea "silly"

In The Guardian, Domninic Rushe quotes Twitter CEO Dick Costolo's dim view of a "blackout" SOPA protest from Wikipedia, Reddit, and others* at Twitter.

That's just silly. Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish.

Which nation's laws and court rulings does your global business have to obey, Dick?

Update: Commenters say that Dick Costolo was taken out of context by The Guardian; that he referred only to the idea of Twitter going dark as silly.

This is a fair point, and it encapsulates something important: it's not reasonable to expect everyone to go dark for a day, and it's not fair to think less of them if they choose not to.

Sites might not have the technical wherewithal to go offline safely and inexpensively. They might be contractually obligated to be up on that particular day for one reason or another -- think advertising campaigns. Even if it's just a day's revenue, not everyone can afford to go without. Finally, they may just not want to, even if they oppose SOPA/PIPA: there are plenty of ways to skin this beast.

Unlike a site such as Wikipedia, Twitter is also a communications platform. Going down for a day could cause all sorts of unexpected problems for people around the world. So there are good reasons for Twitter to not go dark, even for just a few hours, if it doesn't have to.

The problem with Costolo's remark is that he expands the formulation to global businesses in general and the relevance of national politics to the decisions they make. Even if the global business is assumed to be Twitter alone, the problem doesn't go away: lurking behind his dismissal is the fact that the national politics of one country controls his company's fortunes, whether Twitter's global userbase likes it or not.


      1. Man, I’m going to take advantage of the car being off so I can stick my fingers in the engine. I’ll do that first, then we can hit the spa.

        Plus, I just bought a new kite and it’s traditional that I fly it during downtime.

      2. God knows you deserve a few pedicures (and manicures to keep those moderating hands in tip top shape…) i guess what im trying to say is thanks for all of the work that you guys put in for a site as great as boingboing. You don’t hear it enough and I appreciate you guys alot. Cheers

  1. I don’t know weather to say to Dick “Ivory tower much?” or ” how’s the tuning of your fiddle whilest the Internet burns…?”

  2. Dick is being a bit of a… well.. dick. Twitter itself has lost a lot of street cred anyway in the last year. It was so awesome, and now its being ruined by twitter itself.

  3. Twitter has blackouts all the time, they just don’t usually plan for it in advance.  Taking a day off will just be intentional act, rather than as a result of their usual technical incompetence.  They could use this as an opportunity to wipe out some of the spam and solve a few bugs that require their network to be offline, but I guess griping about it in a single un-newsworthy tweet is about all they can muster these days.  Oh, and since I won’t be on Twitter, I’ll be observing the blackout regardless of whether Twitter honors it or not, so one less set of eyeballs for ads.  Looking forward to Twitter laying down for Big Gov in a Big Way.  

    1. Kudos, you picked up on the bug-fixing idea before me. Guess that’s a telltale sign of people with a technical job; eyes wide and shining at the thought of a day — a whole day! — of planned downtime with which to play.

    1.  Doesn’t really paint the CEO in a more favorable light, basically saying that he doesn’t think SOPA/PIPA is important enough for Twitter to act on. Sounds like a tool.

        1. I think most large businesses could realistically “afford” to go dark for the day in one form or another. And from an IT perspective it would provide a great opportunity for bughunting and miscellaneous fixes that isn’t provided for during normal operation. However I suppose they might be in breach of contract with advertisers etc. if they were to do so (are there adverts on a Twitter page?).

          Wikipedia is hopefully ubiquitous enough to cause a bit of a storm among the general public but it seems to me like perhaps more people, and more of the sort of person who won’t be aware of SOPA/PIPA implications, use Twitter more frequently than Wikipedia. Then again, I imagine a helluva lot of people use Twitter via an external application that uses an API, so a blackout would probably just manifest itself as a busload of unhandled exceptions to the end user.

          Google going dark for 24 hours, on the other hand, would be spectacular.

          1. As much as I care about SOPA, Twitter is a bit more important than people make it out to be. Wikipedia is completely non-profit, capable of making its own decisions on actions because guess what, no advertisers can pull its legs, and frankly, their services aren’t ones that would throw everyone through a loop if they went down for only a day, but twitter on the other hand does, and it costs a lot of money to run, and they only recently have been able to include features that monetize on their success. If Google were to go dark for a day I don’t think you understand what it could lose. Never mind the hit it would take from one day without any sort of adsense money, no google ads, no youtube, no anything for just 24 hours. thats also the day that some person who has no idea about this at all, gets confused, might not really care, has a thing he really has to search and goes off to Bing, and might stay there seeing as how unreliable Google is going to be. So yeah, lets give the ad revenues to Microsoft a supporter of SOPA, in a sort of protest of by blacking out Google. 

          2. As a “large business,” how do you justify a voluntary day off in front of your employees or shareholders? If you are “large” enough, this could quite feasibly cost you millions of dollars and a few employees their job (because of lost sales/giving the competition an edge).

            Not saying it’s wrong (and not even referring to Twitter specifically) but you are in a bit of a bind if you are responsible for thousands of employees.

            (Also, Wikipedia would just be run out of their non-US data centers by one of their non-US chapters if conditions in the US aren’t favorable. Even if they decide not to, the content is out there for others to host. Therefore it would be fairly inconsequential for anybody outside the US. Again, not saying they’re wrong, but context matters.)

        2. If the quote is correct he call wiki and the American people silly. I question his judgement to run a company that would be on top of the list to censor if sopa becomes law.

        3. >he’s saying that Twitter can’t afford to go dark for a day

          Can Twitter afford to be taken offline by some ‘malicious’ use of SOPA/PIPA and have its entire business decimated by such laws?

          (I say “‘malicious’ use” but that’s redundant; SOPA has built-in maliciousness running through it like “Blackpool” through a stick of rock.)

  4. Some times I have trouble maintaining patience with people who can’t comprehend how something can affect them indirectly but significantly. People outside of the US should kind of *care* about this, and not because they love the US so much.

    1. I’m from Australia: I do care, because it’s both a first step on a slippery “legislate the internet” slope, because I’d like to spend time in the US at some point in the next few years and I’d like to go about my internetting as usual, and because it’s just a bad example of the sort of law that should be passed. But what can I do? I don’t know anyone in America I can convince to do anything. My country can’t do anything – hell, if you do it we’ll probably follow your lead. What can I do?

    2. I care primarily because I love the Internet (how it used to be, at least web 2.0 grumble grumble), though I will ‘fess up to being a Yankophile.

      Apart from anything else, the UK has had a pretty bad habit of adopting bad facsimiles of a good chunk of all poorly-considered/-chosen/-implemented US domestic policies in the past few years, so it’s at least in the UK’s interest.

  5. SOPA: it’s just silly. Litigating global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish.

  6. Ah. This still useful: weak “allies” are expendable; I have more respect for competent and determined adversaries.  Let’s make sure we keep this in mind when Twitter needs something from the Internet.

    1. “Let’s make sure we keep this in mind when Twitter needs something from the Internet”

      You need Twitter a lot more than Twitter needs you, and he knows that.

  7. From the people who gave us the fail whale you expect any more?
    The injustice of secret subpoenas, we stand up.
    The injustice of our entire site being able to be closed on a whim for a link being posted, whatever…

  8. Hmmm… Twitter never did allow either the “#FuckYouWashington ” or “#OccupyWallStreet” hashtags to appear in popularity rankings here in the US. I stopped using twitter very much after Twitter management did that to Occupy Wall Street.

  9. Twit may refer to: A person of lesser intelligence, it is normally used in a humorous way. (Wikipedia, used by my right to know my great grandchildren will survive to have have the same right in 50 years and expressed permission)
    so which is it Twitter ?
    funny or stupid ?
    join the occupation or die in ignorance of freedom.

    1. Know why that last line isn’t a quote? Because it is bullshit with no sense of perspective. To suggest that anyone would ‘die in ignorance of freedom’ as a result of SOPA is a slap in the face of everyone that lost someone in places like Egypt last year, and a disservice to the memories of those deceased – who were actually dying for freedom.

  10. Look, I sort of agree with him. I live in Australia – there’s literally nothing I can do to stop a foreign country from passing a legal albeit severly flawed law. But I – and everyone else in my country, as well as /every other country except America/ are going to be unable to use reddit or Wikipedia.

    I appreciate the effort, and the willingness to actually do something rather than just sit around talking about it, but it inconveniences a whole lot of people who can’t fix the problem.

    1. You can help by support the American people.  Go swimming, take a hike… If you can’t live without wiki and reddit for 24 hours for the future of the internet free speech then you need to deal with those personal issues and not complain its inconvenient !

    2. Not only that, but this particular FORM of protest is, at *best*, counter-intuitive.  

      “In order to protest the government’s attempt to shut down our site, we’re going to… shut down our site.”  LOLWUT?

      I agree that information about the evils of SOPA and PIPA need to get out there.  I think that the internet can definitely help spread this information, but only if its… you know… *up*.  

      1. Nononono you kisunderstand what’s going on here. It isn’t ‘lots of sites suddenly won’t work’ 

        It’s ‘lots of sites will show sopa/pipa explanatory material and contact information for Congresscritters instead of their usual content.’

      2. Maybe counter-intuitive, but not counter-productive.

        “The government wants to shut down our site, so we will show you what that could be like. If you did not enjoy your experience, now is a good time to let your appointed representative know how you feel about SOPA/PIPA.”

    3. I think there’s a parallel to be drawn here. Wikipedia’s US-based, yes? But you and I access it from two other countries because it’s on the Internet, which is (in my mind at least) “beyond borders” — not entirely decentralised as such, but not exactly running out of one office either. But SOPA and PIPA extend the already pretty screwed-up power of domain seizure even further.

      Now I don’t know exactly what a domain seizure entails at the moment (I’m assuming it is actually a global ISP filter Stateside, leaving the domain available to those not using a US ISP) but assume that it can, justifiably or not, remove almost the entire US customer base from a site that isn’t based in the US. The extensions, to my knowledge, will take that to the DNS level (Stateside again) which suddenly very much becomes the concern of those outside the US.

      I’ve never used reddit (the couple of times I wound up on it I was confused and scared) but I binge on Wikipedia like there’s no tomorrow, so Wednesday’s going to be a bitch; but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If it weren’t for my job, I’d just take a day off from the Internet entirely.

    4. I’m terribly sorry that it inconveniences you.  Because if SOPA goes through, Reddit and Wikipedia are going offline for you anyway. 
      Do you know anyone in the US? I bet you do. You can use the time that Wikipedia And Reddit are dark to let those you know in the US know that their country is being dangerously irresponsible. Here’s how dangerous: If SOPA goes through I, some not particularly noteworthy guy on the internet could personally, and legally, would be able to bring down eBay, all the Gawker blogs, the Huffington Post, and CNN for using my photos without permission or attribution. (And that’s just the ones I know about without Googling them. I’m sure TinEye could find me thousands more.)

      So yeah, I’m sorry that the US government has gone batshit insane and that keeps you from your incredibly valuable redditing.  But you know what? No, I’m not sorry at all.

      1. I don’t, actually, know anyone in the US. Other than famous people and the long-distance girlfriend of a friend of mine, neither of whom I’ve met. I have a Tumblr with 63 followers, most of them local to me; I have no blog, no Twitter, a Facebook with only local friends. I have no platform to tell anyone about SOPA who doesn’t already know it. And I appreciate the efforts of the sites that are doing this. It can’t be easy, making the decision to shut down for a day. But I think that there must be some way of doing this without inconveniencing those of us who have no actual power. (And I don’t really use reddit or Wikipedia, to be honest, or most of the sites that are going dark. I won’t be inconvenienced in the slightest.) I just think there’s got to be a better solution than total shutdown.

      2. Again, no. Wikimedia has servers all over the world; my request is pretty unlikely to be routed through the US. They have dozens of chapters around the world that could continue Wikimedia’s operations. Wikipedia’s content is out there and already hosted by third parties.

        Not arguing, but you’re off-base regarding Wikipedia.

          1. No; it’s just a reply to the second sentence of the comment above, which is unlikely to happen even if push comes to shove in the US.

            I agree with all other issues though, but let’s not sacrifice accuracy.

          2. Yes, let’s not sacrifice accuracy. That’s why you can’t ignore that the organisation which you want to route communications to avoid the US is actually based *IN* the US and is therefore subject to the laws of the US.

            You can’t just focus on servers because that misses an awful lot of how the world works.

  11. Wait, so this site will still be online and is complaining that Twitter aren’t doing the same as Jimmy “I agree with you that Twitter should not go dark” Wales is doing with Wikipedia? Isn’t it hypocrisy to call someone out for not doing something you’re not doing yourself?

        1. let me get this straight, boingboing is to blame for the Guardian not mentioning Mr. Wales quote and the fact that BoingBoing is also going dark?

          Makes complete sense, as long as you’re not one to really on logic. or facts.

          1. No, the author is to blame for basing an article on a quote, which is obviously a reply to someone, without checking out the rest of the conversation – as is the Guardian author. Therefore, both articles initially misinterpreted the quote and showcased how easy it is to take something out of context if you’re too lazy to do even the simplest bit of research. And, given that most visitors will simply follow a link directly to this page, not mentioning BoingBoing going dark gives the casual reader no indication that it will be happening. 

            Fair enough, a moderator pointed out that the information can be found on another page. A website isn’t like a magazine though, just because I’ve read this article doesn’t mean I’m likely to ever have seen the home page.

            So, I made the mistake of thinking the author would be logical enough to include a line like “boingboing will also be going dark”, lack of that line giving the appearance that it wasn’t happening.

  12. It’s frightening to see someone who should know better being so nonchalant regarding something that will dramatically impact his business model.  If SOPA passes, his company will be legally responsible for performing a task that is all but impossible.  

    I can almost hear the politicians rattling their change cans now, shacking down legitimate businesses to grant the exclusions from this impossible law.  Either he’s a foolish CEO or a corrupt one; either way is disappointing.  Considering only the largest of corporations can afford to pay those types of bribes to begin with, SOPA & PIPA are reckless beyond belief.  Hopefully Mr. Costolo will wise up soon.

  13. When the money is more important then the people that made twitter, Its the first sign that big business has casts its evil hands on twitter. Twitter today but look for something new to evolve from twitters CEO lame comments. 

    I can only imagine why the CEO would say its silly to blackout for sopa protest ! Perhaps twitter has a government exemption  from sopa regulations ?

    Stranger things have happened …….

    1. Boing Boing is one thing, but a site that every single business in the world (outside China) has come to rely on for their everyday work (in-site search deals, Google Apps etc.)?

      Not advisable and grossly irresponsible, which is probably why they aren’t doing it.

      1. I dunno…wouldn’t that prove something to those knuckleheads in Washington on how global the internet truly is? That it’s not an American thing?

        1. Oh, they know. They just don’t, you know, care. As far as they are concerned anything outside the beltway is Outer Butfuckistan.

        2. Yeah, at the expense of almost every fucking business in the world that has fuck all to do with the US but has been conditioned to rely on Google’s services for their daily work. Google has some real responsibility there; you can’t just say “fuck you” to your business partners just to make a point that most of them won’t even understand. They aren’t some random blog.

          Having a prominent message on their site (as they plan to do now) is the right thing to do. Betraying your users’ trust is not (just talking about Google here).

    2. I lived without Google for 34 years, I can definitely do without it for a few days, and frequently do. The American wilderness still has a refreshing lack of wi-fi.

  14. Well looks like I’m going to have to boycott twitter now. Fuck them anyway, anyone with balls now would just run wordpress. Twitter is just glorified RSS.

    1. Well looks like I’m going to have to boycott twitter now.

      I’ve been doing that unintentionally since July, 2006.

      1. If you made an “off the top of my head” category on wordpress people could subscribe to that specific feed and it’d basically be the same as twitter.

  15. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to blackout an entire global website or service. Maybe it would be better for companies to just turn off thier US web presence. This way it would force American users to workaround the US blockade by using thier international equivalents instead. This would give the common internet user a feel for what it would be like if a law like this were enacted in the US while at the same time demonstrating to congress and the media industries how ultimately futile this would be at stoping determined people from getting to the services they want.

    1. Genius idea is Genius. Have this enacted along side a longer protest till these bills are dead in the water after the global blackout ends.

    2. I’d take it one step further – on the blackout page, provide instructions for getting around it. Complicated ones, where possible. And say something like “if you don’t want to have to do this for every site you visit, email your local congress-person”. 

      Although I don’t know how illegal that is – technically you’re not encouraging anyone to break a law, because it doesn’t exist yet, but I imagine they could find something if they wanted to.

      1. Great Pains to remind people that if SOPA or the like passed, following those instructions or even posting them would be illegal.

  16. So it’s clear that Twitter’s CEO has no future plans for Twitter.

    I would think that the obvious next step for Twitter would be figuring out how to incorporate audio and video clips. At some point the infrastructure will support it, but I guess Twitter has no plans to take advantage of it as long as Costolo is CEO.

    Dick Costolo: Happy with not growing.

  17. Fuck that guy.

    I dont used twitter. It was convenient for revolution, but the irc, any forum, etc… is just as convenient.

    In a world where the government snoops your ip traffic real revolution is talked about on encrypted dial up BBSes.

    1. Twitter’s general counsel seems like a good guy. He decided to go above and beyond and challenge confidential government requests for Wikleaks twitter account information.

      This guy though, pfft.

  18. is a “Community Empowerment Platform”  that unlike twitter puts the ideals of an open internet and the “Community” first.  
    We have a micro blogging service as well as search and a news reader and will be adding more many more “Community” first features shortly.

  19. But er… it’s “national” politics that *will* affect internet on a *global* scale. How is that even possible to miss?

    A short post here on BB contained the following:
    “Intelligence is the capacity to receive, decode and transmit information efficiently. Stupidity is blockage of this process at any point. Bigotry, ideologies, etc. block the ability to receive; robotic reality-tunnels block the ability to decode or integrate new signals; censorship blocks transmission.”
    — Robert Anton Wilson

    Both Dick and SOPA (potentially) does a great deal of blocking/denial in this case, since internet happens to exist outside of the US as well (who woulad have thougth?). Problem is of course that many of the services used world-wide are *based* in the US.
    If copyrights holders would take action the way SOPA in its current state allows for, it’d be a paradigm shift of sorts for the internet in the long run.In a way it’d almost be interesting to see what would happen if SOPA got through. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of “hacktivism” we’d see as a result or what they would come up with. Launch a parallell satellite based internet controlled from a rogue nuclear sub (with Blufeld behind his desk, being the leader of the “good” guys this time around)?Oh, and of course it should be noted that ‘sopa’ in Swedish means ‘a piece of garbarge’ (prunounced ‘soopah’).

  20. I suppose if you have a global business your business needs to obey the laws of the place it relocates its corporate headquarters to?

    1. Generally businesses have to obey the laws of wherever they are, ie. you can’t sell nuclear waste in Times Square because your head office is on a manmade rock in international waters.

  21. As a European I’m not sure why we should bother with SOPA. Why not let them dig their own grave? This law is so ridiculous (even for US standards) that they’ll soon realize what they’ve done (=business migrates out of the US) and reverse it. In the meantime the rest of the world will speed up the process of removing control of key internet infrastructure out of US hands and a few large corporations are going to move their business to Europe or Asia where they’re not affected. Bad for them – good for us.

    1. Because like it or not, allot of the internet is still US based and the a hell of allot of the services and sites we use in Europe are also US based.
      If this passes it’s bad news for everybody.

    2. That won’t work, because the US government has a well-documented history of pressuring European governments to adopt US-style copyright legislation. And our dear governments have an equally well-documented history of caving in to US demands.
      Worse yet, as soon as a powerful country like the US passes a law like that, they’ll lobby for international treaties that contain similar rules. And once we’re bound by international treaty, it’s a lot harder to change it again.

    3. “Why not let them dig their own grave?”

      Because we’ll force it on you. Thanks for your passive support.

  22. Let’s see if my comment will fit in a format he understands:  

    Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick! (exactly 140 characters!)

  23. Someone, sometime, is going to have to put one big enormous foot down on Hollywood and the music industry. They have been, since the dawn of the Internet, whiny, childish Luddite profitmongers, and the worst thing about it is, their tantrums have gotten results!

    Jack Valentino should be held as the leader of this band of capitalist whores and personally escorted into the miasmic Void, forever to dwell with the trolls and cigar-chomping pimps that are his minions.

    Up till now I’ve resisted downloading illegally but by God, after this I will run rampant, yes, ME PERSONALLY, over every pirate and torrent site the Wonderful Wild Web can offer. I will download and mass-distribute every piece of B-garbage that Hollywood vomits forth on a regular basis and every jingle-jangly morsel of mindlessness that comes out of the dark and bottomless maw that is the music industry.


  24.  They didn’t have a blackout when they had a fundraiser did they?

    Wikipedia closing for everyone worldwide because of US politics is disgusting.. it proves this site is not neutral, it’s in the hands of some people who will use it for their own personal beliefs and everyone who donated to it is getting a spit in the face.

    Goes against what Wikipedia is all about: neutrality.

        1. Uh, no. 

          The neutrality of the project is in its coverage of subjects for encyclopedic purposes. Making a loud statement to defend its very existence does nothing to change that.

          1. When those that provide information can turn it off at the whim of its owner(s)… dangerous path.

    1. Do you realize how US politics could effect Wikipedia?
      Do you realize that if this crap passes and is enforced that Wikipedia would be forever blocked in the USA and any other nation we force this upon?

  25. Twitter could easily black out the website and let the API online — wouldn’t break anything and would achieve the required result.

    The truth is, Twitter is too close to Big Media and they’re afraid to stick their necks out. I think the word “scabs” applies in this case.

  26. After the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in China, half of the Chinese internet went black and white in a sign of respect and mourning for those who had suffered and died.

    It’s understandable if people don’t want to blackout their sites tomorrow, but can’t they “blackout” their sites? That is, Google, put up a big, black logo. Change your background to a dull gray. Twitter, change your shades of blue to shades of gray. This is a simple thing to do that would bring the bills to the attention of everyone without disrupting their service.

  27. Google could settle for a full page explaining pipa-sopa, with a button that says “continue to google search” and would store a cookie so you wouldn’t see it again. Then the logo would have the black bar on it. At the VERY least the black bar. I think every website (twitter included) should do the black bar. 

    But I don’t want twitter to shut down. That and facebook is where everyone would be asking why all the other websites are shut down. So even if someone doesn’t go online that day, the next day there will still be trending topics and facebook messages all over.

  28. Explain to me this….how will twitter going dark cause problems?  All twitter is for is letting people know your taking a shit!

  29. Twitter and Facebook have nothing to worry about, they are useful tools for the CIA and even if they blatantly infringed under the new law, no action would be taken against them in particular.

  30. Dick Costolo makes an excellent point. Twitter is often used specifically to protest governments so disabling it even for a day would be giving oppressive governments exactly what they want.

  31. what if the ISPs turned the servers off to protest. watch the world of instant money crash.
    ATMs…not/ EFTPOS…..not/ STOCK EXs……not./REALTIME BATTLEFIELD……not.
    electronic fucking apocalypse.

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