Is Twitter Furthering Freedom of Speech or are They in it to Generate a Profit?
The internet has fundamentally changed the way humans connect and communicate, but governments across the world have struggled to understand and control the services hosted on the internet. One service in-particular, Twitter, has changed activism and political speech. Twitter’s been the backbone to the Arab Spring from voicing concerns, helping people organize protest, and getting the news of unrest to the outside. In Turkey, elections caused a lot of civil unrest because on Twitter users have claimed there was mass corruption within the government. The Turkish government has no control over Twitter because Twitter’s servers are outside Turkey’s borders, and the government’s response was to completely block Twitter’s access within the country. Other countries can control which products enter their countries by placing a tariff or banning a product for being sold within that country. While Twitter promotes free speech it’s still a private company, and many advocate net neutrality so ever site is available to everyone. Should a government be able to ban an internet service within its borders much like it’s allowed to ban certain products.
The Arab Spring which have utilized these global communication tools in trying to overcome the isolation of Arab society. Turkey has been outside the Arab Spring but borders Syria who has been in a civil war after the Arab Spring began. The Turkish government wants to prevent western views from distracting younger voters from the popular candidate whose President Abdullah Gül who has been in power since 2007. The block of Twitter and YouTube prevents outside opinions from entering the impressionable youth who hold a lot of power in the election. Western values differ greatly from the culture of Turkey, and change within the country could create unrest that would not be conductive to bring peace to an area that has not seen peace in hundreds of years. The internet is making a global society and the internet is the sole reason for such great change in the middle east.
Countries have banned hundreds of books through history, and some more recently. They have banned them for political reasons, false facts, and religious reasons. These bans are backed by the courts and the governments back the ban of these books. The Turkish courts determined “positive developments today concerning judicial review of this disproportionate and illegal administrative act of access banning the of Twitter,” which means citizens can have open discussion on the service before the election. The court said that Twitter was apart of freedom of speech, but Twitter being a private company should be responsible for what’s said on the service. Not only is Turkey worried about national security, but slander on the site can hurt an elected officials chance of re-election.
The internet and sites available are a great way to get a message to millions of like-minded citizens. It is being used by pro and anti-government factions to organize events in mere minutes, and the government is unable to stop or slow down these events. The one way they’ve attempted to stop these protest are to block Twitter, but citizens within the country find workarounds to continue their marches and events. There is the Tor network which routes traffic around so it seems that it’s not within any country, and allows citizens in turkey to bypass these blocks. The blocking allows the government to check other communications that they can control which enables them to stop protest or other events that could impeded the election.
The service will stand with their users “in Turkey who rely on Twitter as a vital communication platform,” and they will keep advocating for freedom of speech around the world. Private companies are now pushing governments for their service to stay alive with the arguments of freedom of speech. Twitter is losing money when they are blocked in a place like Turkey, where thousands of users use the site to communicate with each other. The company has a vested interest in keeping their service unblocked in large nations, and they are willing to use the legal system to hide behind. They’re furthering freedom of speech in countries that don’t have strong laws protecting their speech. Now some courts have ruled in their favor, but the services are in a grey area that many don’t know how to handle. Since laws and regulations are not the same from country to country many internet services including Twitter have to meet the laws in that country to operate. Google does this by censoring search results if the country in question chooses, but Twitter refuses to hand over users IP address, information, and other personal information with government regulations. In the United States they have to comply with these request because their servers are within the countries borders, but in these foreign countries have little or no control over the western company’s.
While freedom of speech is important we shouldn’t allow company’s that make profits off our speech to hide behind these lawsuits to continue in countries that have little control over what’s said. Twitter has been vital to overcome the isolation of Arab society, but all the while Twitter was making a profit. On the other hand this is the company’s social responsibility to further freedom of speech and protect citizens rights when social injustice is occur. All the while Twitter is making a little money to continue to make our world a better place 140 characters at a time. Twitter is no longer just a place to see if someone is eating a sandwich, it’s a place to actively watch our world and take part in social justice for everyone. I implore everyone to use Twitter more than a way to log your daily life and become engaged in the world around you.