Whose tweets are these anyway? (What happens when election campaign tweets get deleted?)


Today, there was a bit of a flurry of tweets after the official Twitter account by SPD candidate for chancelor, Peer Steinbrück, sent this tweet:

deleted tweet

… and then deleted it. (Screenshot from Politwoops)

Because it can be hard to read, the tweet says: “Wann hat sich ein Kanzlerkandidat irgendeiner Partei schon mal für Netzpolitik interessiert! Wann? cc @pottblog” (translation: When did any party’s candidate for chancellor have any interest in net politics before? When?)

In general, deleting tweets isn’t considered good style. Fair enough.

Before I continue, full disclosure: I once was an advisor to the federal youth campaign for SPD, back in 2009, and as a student job I worked on the SPD 2005 campaign as well. I don’t have any business relationship with the party now.

So, now that that’s out of the way, I think there are several aspects to look at this.

One, overall etiquette. Should tweets ever be deleted (if so, when is it acceptable), and if they are, should it be marked? I tend to go a pretty pragmatic way: If something’s posted accidentally, delete the tweet or say it in the next tweet. This, and that’s important to stress, doesn’t serve to hide the information, but to help prevent the spreading of information that wasn’t intended to be published. In other words, both the deletion and the clarifying statement serve (IMHO) as a statement of intention: “please don’t spread this, it was an honest mistake and not intended to be published”. If something’s tweeted on purpose but simply wrong, never delete but own up. Also, be aware that no tweets stays deleted, ever, because what’s out there is out there.

Two, if something is tweeted, like in this case obviously, accidentally on one account but was meant for another. (According to Twitwoops, the fantastic services that archives tweets deleted from politicians’ accounts, the tweet in question was deleted within half a minute.) If, in other words, something that was meant to be a tweet from the personal account of a member of the election campaign team that has access to the candidate’s twitter account as is normal and as it should have, then what’s the best next step? Does a tweet, even if by technical/human error sent from a candidate’s account, count as “their tweet”? Frankly I don’t think so.

Here’s the original tweet, from the owner, and surely it’s harmless enough in this context:

Tobias Nehren (Fison) on Twitter

So, I don’t know what the best practice is. But I do know that a bit of common sense helps put this things in context. In my experience as someone who pretty much posts stuff online all day and who’s also been heavily involved in election campaigns where things tend to move very fast, more often than not there’s no intention to hide things but simple, honest mistakes. We’re all human.

Net Censorship in Germany: Confirmed


Censorship sucks

It’s a sad day for Germany, and an infuriating one. The law hasn’t passed yet, but the major parties have agreed (Netzpolitik.org, in German) to introduce net censorship in Germany. It’s all under the pretense of protecting children against abuse, but the draft of the law clearly shows that it will neither protect children nor put a limit on the distribution on videos of child abuse. It also shows how badly an unhealthy mix of under-informed politicians and overly symbolic politics can go wrong.

The German government will censor the internet. What country am I living in?

I am seriously stunned as I’m writing this. How could this come about? Von der Leyen, the conservative Secretary of Family Affairs, pushed this piece of legislation hard and actually managed to get not just her party (CDU) but also a large chunk of the German Bundestag to agree to legislation that clearly they haven’t read don’t understand the scope of, mostly by using harsh rhetoric and fake statistics, pretending she knows how to fight child abuse. Never mind that even conservative newspaper Handelsblatt stated: It’s official, von der Leyen has lied. (Some conservative politicians as well as lobbyists have already stated that other content – copyright infringements, gambling, violent games – should also be considered for blocking.)

Personally, this troubles me on several levels. These laws clearly intrude my private life as someone whose private and business life revolves around the net to a large degree. Also, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) had the chance to stop this madness by withdrawing support and didn’t – despite a wing within the party strongly opposing the whole censorship project.

I’m an adviser to the online youth election campaign of SPD. Panorama3000 and I organize the online campaign for Jusos, the SPD’s youth organization. (The Jusos oppose censorship plans; former head of Jusos Björn Böhning lead the intra-party stance to stop the censorship plans.) Both on a personal level and as a campaigner I must say agreeing to this legislation hurts democracy in Germany, and the ongoing election campaign.

To clarify, and as full disclosure: I will continue to support Jusos in the election campaign; I still think SPD is one of the very few sound choices in the upcoming elections (the Greens being the other), but that’s a personal choice. The thing is: We all need to make it clear that we oppose censorship. This is not something that just affects the geeks and nerds. This affects all of us.

How could we get to this point? This is ridiculous.

Update: Thomas Knüwer of German newspaper Handelsblatt has some comments on this issue: Dammbruch im Internet (de)

Life updates: Domains still moving, SPD / Juso election campaign, Internet Bill of Rights


Domain Name ScrabbleJust a brief update on what has been going on here. First up: The move to my new hosting service provider Mediatemple is still going. Mostly this is due to the amount of domains that I had registered on my old account. My old partner in crime Thomas Lacher and I have had this old server for about ten years. And just like a good basement, a server is something that kind of fills up organically. It was time to clean up and throw out a lot of stuff. And once you start digging, you find things that you hadn’t thought abot for a long time but that are valuable or dear in some way nonetheless. This, and the coordination required for transferring domains to several people and domain hosters is taking somewhat longer than I had hoped, but it’s all coming together. Still, this feels like playing domain name scrabble, and this site might be down for a little while if something goes wrong. No worries, we’ll fix it as quickly as possible. There’s plenty of other ways to get in touch. You’ll find one, I’m sure.

Second, great news. In Germany 2009 is called “Superwahljahr”, a super election year. There will a European election, federal election as well as a whole bunch of state and regional elections. (A German list of the elections can be found here.) I’m excited to be part of all this as a strategic consultant to the youth campaigning team of the SPD, the Jusos. I’ll be working directly with Panorama3000, who I’ve been working with a lot lately and who I also share office space with. Since this is a paid gig I want to be completely open about this up front. Also, over the course of the year it will always be an issue of mixing my blog and other personal online accounts with the campaigning activities. This is something that I’ll have to re-consider regularly. From today’s point of view I’ll try to stick to a simple rule of thumb that has always served me very well: Full disclosure at all points. Simple as that. If I find something really cool I’ll talk about it; if I find something particularly bad I’ll talk about it. Mostly I’ll try not to make a big deal out of it, and I’ll always play with open cards on what’s going on and why I’m writing what I’m writing. (Feedback on this? Please share.)

Third, more good news. Max Senges (who I’ve also been friends with for a long time and have worked with quite a bit) has been very active in the Internet Bill of Rights coalition (IBR) and has invited me to join in and help out. The mission of the IBR is incredibly important – roughly speaking, the goal is to write down rights and duties of users (or rather: citizens online). Think United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the digital world. I’ll try to organize the blog and all related activities. (Thanks for the invitation, Max!) This is an open coalition. If digital rights and ethics are something you truly care for, please consider joining this effort. Drop me a line and I’ll hook you up with the folks who know much more about the details than I do at this point.

Image: Domain Name Scrabble by polaroidmemories