February 01, 2012 1:50pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Web Sheriff Talks About Sending Takedown Notices To Twitter
Twitter's new censorship policies are getting a great deal of attention, but one shouldn't ignore the fact that the microblogging service also has released a year's worth of DMCA takedown notices. In total, there were 4,410 claims made to remove tweets, and Twitter's disclosure shows that Hollywood was responsible for many of them. In fact, one film studio accounts for a third of all takedown notices sent to Twitter in 2011.
Magnolia Pictures, whose films last year included Melancholia and Page One: Inside the New York Times, sent 1,466 takedown notices to Twitter last year, mostly to remove links to unauthorized postings of films.
The aggressive activity can best be explained by the presence of the "Web Sheriff," a UK man named John Giacobbi, who has been contracted by many entities in the entertainment industry, including Magnolia, to police leaks.
We recently spoke to Giacobbi about his work and how dealing with Twitter to remove tweets compares to dealing with other websites.
"Twitter is becoming an ever-more-important component [to policing], paricularly in relation to music and movie leaks when the twitterati do their best to spread links faster than Usain Bolt with his trousers on fire," Giacobbi says.
But Twitter doesn't make Giacobbi's work easy.
"They naturally have takedown procedures, but they don’t as yet offer removal tools," he says. "This is unfortunate as many other sites do now offer these facilities to major rights owners and leading agents and, for the time being, Twitter’s current process is too basic and too clunky."
Giacobbi speculates about the reason and looks to the social site's future.
"This possibly stems from the fact that paradoxically, Twitter appears to be quite an inward looking company," he says. "But as the site becomes increasingly relevant to the lives of hundreds-of-millions of people around the globe, I’m sure that they’ll embrace more multilateralism in their dealings with the outside world."
Already, Twitter has bowed to the demands of worldwide governments to do more policing of content. The company has indicated that it will remove sensitive tweets in compliance with local laws, but that it intends to showcase what's been removed by forwarding takedown notices to Chilling Effects, which has become a go-to depository of DMCA notices for many leading websites.
Still, some international news organizations seem to sense some hypocrisy over censorship outrage when western-based entertainment companies cause Twitter to remove content.
For example, on its website, Al Jazeera has transformed information about the tweet-downs into some interesting data-visualizations about what it calls "censorship bids." Here's a look at how Magnolia and a few large record companies are leading the way towards pulling content off of Twitter for alleged infringements: