Twitter’s Policy Change: Censorship or Aid to Free Speech ?

February 2, 2012

While many have deemed Twitter’s recent announcement to block tweets country-by-country an act of censorship, even vowing to boycott the social media giant, Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina, says otherwise.

“Twitter’s latest policy is purposefully designed to allow Twitter to exist as a platform… making it as hard as possible for governments to censor content,” explains Tufekci in a recent blog post.

According to Tufekci, the policy, which proclaims to take down content only within the jurisdiction of countries with imposed legal orders, actually provides tools for advocates of free speech. She argues that Twitter has effectively focused its policy — previously it was forced to take down restricted content from global viewing — and has made its decisions more transparent. A list of blocked tweets will be published with links to original tweets as well as the country’s court order. “So everyone who is not… [in] that particular country can see what it’s about.”

Furthermore, Tufekci explains that users can easily circumvent blocked content in their country by manually overriding their computer’s country setting.  “[By] making such censorship visible and easily circumventable, it is at least giving the global civic society as well as citizens of a country [the ability] to recognize what’s going on and respond.”

See Zeynup Tufekci discuss social media’s role on the Arab Spring at our BRITE ’12 Conference (March 5-6, NYC).

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BY KIM SHIFRIN

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