Users of the microblogging platform Twitter staged a worldwide blackout Friday to protest the company’s new rulings regarding censorship and international law. According to an ABC News report, the so-called “Twitterati” are sending an angry message to the company about its decision to allow the governments of certain countries to censor messages they deem objectionable.
Many Twitter users cite the service’s role in the Arab Spring protests throughout the Middle East, in which protesters organized rallies and dodged police by using Tweets, which until now have never been blocked or censored. Some see social media as one of the last bastions of uncensored, unfettered free speech and believe that giving the company and government agencies the authority to block Tweets will have a chilling effect on the ability of groups and individuals to speak out.
The article quotes social media commentator Jeff Jarvis as saying, “I’m afraid it’s a slippery slope of censorship. I understand why Twitter is doing this: they want to be able to enter more countries and deal with the local laws. But as Google learned, in China, when you become the agent of the censor, there are problems there.”
The company published a press release on Friday announcing the new policy. “As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression,” it said, “Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.”
Therefore, the company said, it will exercise the ability to “reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.”
Twitter stands by its decision, writing on the company blog, “The Tweets must continue to flow.”
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