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.
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." (Removing a tweet previously meant deleting it from the web entirely.) Critics said the move was a form of censorship, but Twitter promised tweets would be removed only upon request and only if they broke the law -- a system that Macgillivray, one of the policy's architects, defended as a way "to keep more tweets up in more places." The company refused to comply with all six government removal requests in the first half of 2012, but in October Twitter blocked access in Germany to the account of a neo-Nazi group that is banned by the German government, in addition to removing anti-Semitic tweets in France. "Never want to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly & transparently," Macgillivray tweeted.
The microblogging service may still be figuring out the kinks of this new policy, but at a time when multinational corporations are caving left and right to countries like China, Macgillivray's principled defense of free speech is vital. "No one wants a pen that's going to rat them out," he told the New York Times. "We all want pens that can be used to write anything and that will stand up for who we are."
In 2008, the crash of Lehman Brothers sent the world economy into a tailspin. Four years later, the United States and the major economies of the European Union are growing anemically, if at all. The investing world has seen the Chinas and Indias as practically the only bright spots of global growth. According to Ruchir Sharma, however, the golden age for these up-and-comers is fast coming to a close.
In his new book, Breakout Nations, Sharma -- who oversees a portfolio worth an estimated $25 billion -- debunks the conventional wisdom that the emerging markets of the last decade will continue to drive global growth in the next one. Where some see in India, Mexico, and Russia's growing ranks of billionaires symbols of newfound affluence, Sharma sees dangerous imbalances. Smart investors should look instead to a new class of promising economies -- like "boring" Poland. Sharma's smart geoeconomic insights -- like his riff on how overpriced cocktails in Rio could be a sign of green shoots in Detroit or his take on why China's slowdown won't be the "cataclysmic event" that many fear (after all, "a dead camel is still larger than a horse") -- are the end product of two decades of traveling the world to seek out ground truth for himself. "The next decade is full of bright spots," Sharma writes, "but you can't find them by looking back at the nations that got the most hype in the last decade."Reading list: The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential … in Business and in Life, by Leo Babauta; Joseph Anton: A Memoir, by Salman Rushdie; The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, by Daniel Yergin. Best idea: The abundance of oil. Worst idea: Another marketing acronym for which countries will do well: MIST (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, and Turkey). American decline or American renewal? American renewal. More Europe or less? Less. To tweet or not to tweet? Not to tweet.