Is Twitter Censorship Curbing Freedom Of Expression?

Twitter's latest news to delete tweets in specific country digs up the question why is it doing and what can be the repercussions.

“Actually, I am a coward. I say only what is safe to say, and I criticise only what is permissible to criticise” ― Murong Xuecun

This quote is soon going to be true for all of us now, given that what I have read about Twitter is true. Until now Twitter made it possible for me to express myself without fear. But I am deeply saddened today after reading that Twitter will no longer be Twitter as we knew it. 140 characters won’t be your soul, it would be monitored and if harmful, pulled off too. Don’t be surprised as this was declared by Twitter itself in it’s blog and I am glad that Priyanka Jain, my Twitter friend shared the same news with me asking my thoughts. I would like to quote Ben Edelman’s thoughts here, ((To read the complete interview click here)) whom I had an opportunity to speak with at the WATSummit,

[pullquote id=”lhipull” class=”center_pull”]I am not sure if Social Media will be more curated but it is little bit hard to say because there are these giants who can do whatever they want. If Facebook wants to put their timeline with ads in social media then they will do it. No one can stop them by doing right now.[/pullquote]

Ben who had a long career fighting and highlighting the wrongdoings of Google expressed his frustration but in a way also shared the bitter truth. But what made Twitter take this decision?

Twitter in 2011

A year back Twitter boldly made it clear that their goal is to instantly connect people everywhere and in a meaningful way. It also largely emphasized on freedom of expression is essential to make this happen.

[pullquote id=”lhipull” class=”center_pull”]Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country, some make us laugh, some make us think, some downright anger a vast majority of users. We don’t always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.[/pullquote]

A statement made in its blog that one would love to read a number of times and feel proud that we have one community that calls a spade a spade and is not driven by opportunistic mandate.

Twitter in 2012

But wait a minute, in comes 2012 and we see Twitter going turtle on its own thoughts and now expressing that it has the powers to withhold a content in a particular country if it feels so. A statement that was expressed in its blog as bizarrely as one can think of.

[pullquote id=”lhipull” class=”center_pull”]Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.[/pullquote]

These thoughts don’t come from a product that is globally loved because of it’s sheer brilliance of expression and connection to people. It makes me think that the blog post that they have written today is more like a draconian law that they want to implement without caring about the users. The statements are clear from Twitter that they will be doing what they think is right or will do as told upon.

Why is Twitter doing so?

The reason that Twitter has expressed is since now they are expanding to countries where the ideas about the term ‘freedom of expression’ are different so they will have to abide by them. So who decides what content should be withheld and when it is blocked in one country and accessible to others of a different country. Can somebody please explain to me what is the logic here? Well if you ask any sane person, he will say it can’t get more diplomatic than this.

The argument that Twitter provides here is not only illogical but blatantly so. When Twitter was expanding in 2011, they didn’t have any such problem but now all of a sudden in 2012 they feel that there is a need. It is not about expansion, it is the true powers of social media that is scaring the rulers of the world.

For the first time in the history of communication, we have seen the true powers of Internet and that’s why Times named 2011 Person of the Year as “The Protestor“.

The Protester

We not only saw mass movements, we also saw how age old dynasties were ripped apart in Middle East, governments being challenged in India, etc. On one side where we saw the powers of social media then on the other side the London riots showed the dark side of social media. In all this the common man saw the true colors and the opportunistic rulers of the world saw this as a scare and there after we have seen some interesting ways to keep a tight rein on the uncontrollable powers of social media.

If it was the PIPA, SOPA in US, then here in India it was first the government’s proposal of monitoring content in the name of religious sentiment and hatred. When things didn’t work out, there were some smart moves - we saw court’s notice to 21 Internet companies in India to find ways how they can monitor and regulate user-generated content. Hence today Twitter’s statement also falls in the same lines. Going further this move by Twitter could be moulded the way opportunists want -

1. A ruling party can make all the hatred things silent. May be you will never see a #idiotkapil trending. Also rest assured that this will be the same for opposition.

2. Lets us now come to big brands who can silence the negative sentiments. So you may not see those ‘F’ worded tweets to the likes of @airtel_presence and @tatadocomo.

3. Finally King Khan may also use his clout and silence his critics on Twitter.

4. Well as they say possibilities are endless we would be going to see all of them or may be will never come to know of them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to 2012! We will see much more things happening that will define the future and one of them would be freedom of speech on the Internet.

Image Courtesy: @hnet24,Guardian