Magazine article Foreign Policy

66 Alexander Macgillivray: For Defending Free Speech in the Twitter Era

Magazine article Foreign Policy

66 Alexander Macgillivray: For Defending Free Speech in the Twitter Era

Article excerpt

General counsel, Twitter | San Francisco

With last year's Arab uprisings, the world saw the power of Twitter to channel popular sentiment, mobilize protests, and even, some argued, topple dictators. That power isn't always a given, however, and it's Alexander Macgillivray's job to defend it. As Twitter's head lawyer, he has done battle with governments across the globe to protect the right of tweeps everywhere to spout off--provided, of course, they do it in 140 characters or less.

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In just the past year, the longtime Silicon Valley attorney, who previously represented Google as it redefined intellectual property law for the search era, has contested attempts by the Indian government to shut down accounts, fought a U.S. court order to release data on Occupy Wall Street protesters, and even reprimanded a fellow Twitter employee for helping the company's corporate partners silence critical voices on the site. "You don't want business interests affecting judgment about content," Macgillivray insisted. "It's against the trust your users have in your service."

But it's a tricky balancing act. Early this year, Twitter announced a new policy giving the company the ability to "reactively withhold content from users in a specific country--while keeping it available in the rest of the world. …

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