Open Letter to Jack Dorsey — Founder and CEO of @Twitter
From the Twitter Republic of Tanzania
Dear Jack Dorsey
Greetings from the autonomous Twitter Republic of #Tanzania
I have taken onto myself to drop you a few lines about the attacks that we are sustaining from enemies of our Republic who want to suppress our freedoms and most fundamentally the Freedom of Expression which is severely restricted in reality in #Tanzania. Our Twitter Republic is the last frontier and the only place to find unfiltered news, live updates on the ongoing campaigns in one of the (if not THE) most contested elections in the history of our country. It is enough to search Tanzania, Magufuli and repression to find plenty of reports from major international human rights organizations and agencies. The latest report from @Amnesty gives plenty of insight
So why is Twitter Republic of Tanzania so essential in the struggle for democracy at large and how are we the last frontier? Conventional media and online media which is now required to register by authorities have been severely repressed through intimidation (fines), suspensions and shutdowns by the Government. So what we see today in media is not the reality. Opposition hardly gets any coverage but they dominate social media. On Twitter we get real time updates, unfiltered comments and opinion of candidates, and we have lively discussions around campaign remarks, events. I wish you would get a better translation service for Kiswahili so you could follow our lively conversation. Some of us have seen our businesses shut down and livelihoods taken away, others are sitting in prison on trumped up charges all because we exercised our constitutional right to freedom of expression on Twitter. This has meant some outspoken individuals using pseudonyms to hide their identities. This includes the President of our Republic @kigogo2014 who is a phenomenon that we all know about but never really discuss in the real world except reports and statements by government linked media and individuals referring to him as the enemy of the state — his crime is to criticize heavily the government and president Magufuli (whom he has nicknamed Meko) and whistleblowing on a number of important issues including releasing the database of the Zanzibar voters registry (which by the way is required by law — but then this government couldn’t be bothered!)
So what is the ask Jack Dorsey ? As I mentioned earlier, we are under attack! We need @Twitter to step in and step up to stop repression and our silencing through your well-meaning system of copyright violations. This is being used by state operators through fake accounts to lock and suspend Twitter accounts that have major influence. So how does this work?
A bogus claim is made about a photo that I posted let us say about Zimbabwe. The claimants are always based in Tanzania — they use a certain set of names and addresses. They are all using landlines (meaning it is most probably government offices). They lodge rapidly several copyright claims so my account then eventually is seen as a repeated violator of copyright and is suspended. They have done this to @kigogo2014, but also @RealHauleGluck and @iAlenOfficial who both remain suspended — PLEASE UNSUSPEND THEM immediately! There are I am sure other accounts in recent days facing similar challenges and will keep updating Twitter support
Next request is to PROTECT the activists online by not suspending accounts for copyright violations. The system of counter notice requires submitting name, address, telephone number that can be read by the claimant (in this case the state). This violates PRIVACY and enables the state to get your personal information. I know you will have better solutions to this major challenge but with the upcoming elections in 2 weeks and with opposition politicians being physically attacked and under threat, while activists are also detained and under surveillance — please help keep Twitter Republic of Tanzania free NOW! Stop the bogus claims!
I hope that when the dust settles you will find time to visit #Tanzania and meet the free citizens!
Maria @mariastsehai at Twitter Republic of Tanzania