Twitter announced last week in its blog post, “Tweets still must flow,” that it will begin censoring its users’ tweets on a country-by-country basis, which in a way is contradictory.
The announcement means that, at the request of United States law enforcement officials, the company will delete any post from the eyes of viewers in a specific country, leaving those posts available to other countries.
Before this controversial move, content on Twitter could still be censored, but the censored information or tweets would be erased completely and disappear worldwide.
Some may see the step to censor individual countries from others as a liberating one because it doesn’t completely erase the censored tweets, but that would be misguided.Twitter will be setting a bad precedent if it continues, as an extension of the U.S. government or otherwise, to censor information. Twitter is a tool that has brought about revolutions, but it is becoming more and more subject to the hand of government rather than serving as a platform for freedom of speech.
For an American-based company, freedom of speech should always apply, even if the majority of users are outside the United States.
Some say the Internet cannot and should not be entirely free and open, and applaud Twitter’s announcement. This opinion comes most forcefully from the countries of Thailand and China, which both censor their citizens. China’s state-run newspaper, Global Times, published an editorial in the wake of Twitter’s announcement written by Xu Ming that states, “It is impossible to have boundless freedom, even on the Internet and even in countries that make freedom their main selling point.”
This is not true for Twitter. If the company wants to survive, grow and remain accessible to all people across the world, it needs to step back from censorship.
But it is true Twitter wants to look out for its financial standing. This is evident in the case of J.P. Morgan. Twitter failed to mark J.P Morgan’s Twitter feed as trending when it was being targeted by Occupy Wall Street last year, and in so doing, effectively cut other Twitter users off from important information. The explanation: J.P. Morgan is a major shareholder in Twitter.
As a newspaper that uses Twitter, we can say that censorship in any form inhibits our business and our freedom, as well as that of our readers. Neither Twitter nor the United States government has any business hindering freedom of information.