The Little Bird Gets a Muzzle

Just when we start praising the shortest ever media system for its influence on governance, things turn bad.

The Business and Human Rights Resource Center reports that “on 26 January 2012, Twitter announced that it would begin restricting tweets in specific countries.” 

Twitter has become an important pressuring tool over the years thanks to its fast spreading of messages. The so-called Twitter factor helped people to influence governments and companies with just 140 characters.

Now that power is obviously strongly limited if Twitter allows certain countries to censor certain tweets. Twitter explains according to Reuters: “As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.” They would therefore not allow Twitter in their countries. In short, Twitter’s expansion is more important than the freedom of speech. It is only of small comfort that “even with the possibility of such restrictions, Twitter would not be able to coexist with some countries.”

Thailand welcomed the move according to the Guardian: “In Thailand, where censorship laws are already heavily enforced, the information and communication technology minister, Jeerawan Boonperm, called Twitter’s decision a ‘welcome development’ and said the Ministry already received ‘good co-operation’ from internet companies such as Google and Facebook.” Northern Neighbour China has blocked Twitter altogether. But really, things are not much better in Thailand: “Thailand has some of the toughest censorship laws in the world, ranking it 153 out of 178 in Reporters Without Borders’ 2011 Press Freedom Index.”

Twitter anounces that people will be informed that their tweet is being blocked. At least you know when you’re being censored.

Picture by rossbelmont, obrigada!

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3 thoughts on “The Little Bird Gets a Muzzle

  1. One person suggested simply changing Twitter user settings to indicate that you live in a different country, but I think Twitter probably use both that and user IP address in any efforts to identify users of a specific country. Using a computer purchased in a different country and running it on a proxy server may be the only way to avoid such censorship.

    Related: search “great firewall” to read about the heroic technical efforts of Chinese human rights activists.

    • You’re right. The chinese are pretty good in making these things work, their own twitter has definitely influenced politics a couple of times… I hope it continues that way. I also believe however that it won’t be that easy to use censor-free Twitter.

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