Social networking has provided individuals with an unprecedented wave of opportunities, allowing users to bask in the joys of freedom of speech.
Microblogging sites such as Twitter are used in many varieties as both an outlet for the coordination of ideas and current events, as well as an avenue for individuals to band together in the quest to uncover current trends and share common interests.
Individuals from all walks of life have dabbled in the twitter revolution, but the announcement by Twitter to allow country-specific censorship of tweets has abruptly stagnated the notion of freedom of expression, drifting society back seemingly to previous methods.
This comes as an unexpected twist in the plot by the tech site, notorious for its widespread pro-freedom of speech attitude, a key outlet in the co-ordination of online canadian pharmacy protests in Egypt last year during the regime change.
Thailand has already jumped aboard, backing Twitter on its censorship guidelines.
“Although this impacts certain countries more than others, I think this is a sad step backwards for Twitter,” said fourth-year McMaster University student, Alyssa Rai. “Everyone is entitled to expressing their feelings and opinions. Now individuals are being so closely monitored, that’s just not fair. If Twitter censors its tweets we lose that freedom of expression.”
The company has implemented this system with primarily country-specific intentions, that is, targeting censorship of tweets solely along defined geographical regions. The proposed transparency of the tech firm’s censorship plans will clearly mark to users when the content has been withheld.
In an effort to broaden the transparency of the site, Twitter’s partnership with the collaborative archiving website, Chilling Effects has allowed for the expansion of a new page enabling users to easily locate notices relating to Twitter.
The initial reaction sent users in a state of frenzy, with many threatening to boycott the microblogging site based on the implied notion of diminished freedom of expression.
“I had contemplated abandoning the site altogether,” said recent McMaster graduate, Deanna Pan.
The microblogging firm insists that this granular method of content censorship will help broaden transparency and accountability, 140 characters at a time.
Tweets will not be filtered before appearing on the site, rather, the company plans to act reactively in response to what is believed to be a valid request.
This system will allow for tweets to continue to flow “freely” to users globally, with the exception of those countries in which the censorship applies. There is already a ban on Twitter in China.
“As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not e able to exist there.
“Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content,” said the company. The company claims that the only way to take account of the limitations observed in various countries was to remove content globally.
According to Twitter’s blog, the company said that they give themselves the “ability to reactively withhold content from the users in a specific country – while keeping it available in the rest of the world,” in an effort to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.
The new censorship laws depict the desire for the company to expand its network and implement sustainable, long run profit maximizing strategies.
Complying with censorship laws can be deemed as a compromise, essential to ensuring successful business operations without the threat of facing sanctions.
But no matter which way you slice it, censorship is censorship and streams of information are being monitored, with bubbles carefully filtering out what we say, one tweet at a time.