photo credit: dbking (from Wikimedia Commons)
When the news broke a few days ago that Twitter had successfully challenged a gag order in the federal government's investigation into the WikiLeaks case, it was a reminder that the Bay Area is on the front lines of the battle to protect our First Amendment rights in the digital age.
A federal grand jury in Virginia had subpoenaed user account data from Twitter about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, among others, as part of its probe into how that large trove of classified records recently became public.
Twitter has a company policy of informing users before complying with court orders such as this one, which is significant because that allows the user to exercise the legal right to challenge the subpoena in court, where it may get quashed for any number of reasons.
But since government investigators routinely request -- and get -- gag orders in these types of cases, Twitter was barred by law from telling Assange and the others involved in this particular case. So it fought back, and won what may prove to be an important legal precedent in the process.
Things move so fast in the world of technology that we can sometimes lose sight of just how new some of it still is. And sometimes that very newness can cause problems.
As I was sitting in a Cole Valley café recently, watching Craig Newmark of Craigslist demonstrate how he uses his iPad (on a tiny easel) to handle customer support issues, it struck me that only a year ago this scene never could have happened.
After all, Cupertino-based Apple only introduced the iPad, probably the most super-hyped tech product of all time, in late January 2009.
All along the waterfront in modern San Francisco, businesses catering to tourists occupy the wharves where longshoremen used to work.
But down at Pier 17, there also is an industrial enterprise -- a chocolate factory, owned and operated by none other than the team of Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, the visionaries who launched Wired magazine in SoMa back in 1993.
They are still innovators in technology, though no longer in the publishing industry. Instead they manufacture and sell premium chocolate with their company TCHO, which in its own way may prove to be as disruptive in the global chocolate industry as Wired was in publishing.
My friend Carrie* doesn’t like to just sit around when there’s a problem that needs fixing. Thus when a bug eliminated all of her (and many others’) Twitter followers last year, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Using Google, she located the Twitter office on Folsom Street and set out for a visit, stopping by a local bakery along the way to buy several dozen cookies in the hope that they might her gain entrée to one of the hottest companies on the planet.
When she showed up at the social networking site’s front door, it was locked, but by lucky coincidence, someone just leaving the office held the door open to let her in.
Once inside, she stood in the entryway wondering what to do next.