Twitter today did the unprecedented. It shut down a neo-Nazi site, @hannoverticker, though only in Germany at the request of the German government. Earlier in the year Twitter announced it would close down sites in conflict with local law while leaving them open internationally. I wonder if this policy is really nothing more than appeasement of religious conservatives in Islamic counties such as Iran or Pakistan. Whatever, today they exercised that option for the first time. We”ll have to see where this thing ultimately goes. Despotic governments will probably become even more adamant in demanding the same be done for them when they find their power threatened.
Think about it: Twitter has proven a catalyst for change in such countries, a jungle drums scenario that dispenses what ideologues would snuff out, the yearning of the oppressed to undo their shackles. It’s inconceivable to think of an Arab spring without the social media’s advocacy; the phenomenon of the Occupy Wall Street Movement that spread to other countries; the daily revelations of otherwise sequestered Syrian government atrocities against its own people.
Twitter, what you’ve done is a grievous wrong. I can’t really speak for your motives, but the end doesn’t justify the means.
In Turkey, world-renowned pianist Faxil Say’s trial has begun. He’s been arrested for alleged defamation of the prophet Mohammed. Ironically, the charges stem from several of his tweets. “I am not sure if you realize it, but if there is a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or fool, it’s always an Islamist.” So much for Turkey’s aspirations to join the European Union. Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, must be turning over in his grave.
In our own land, the threat to harness our right to free speech remains under continuous attack in the current reign of political correctness and the narrow confines of political and religious ideologues bent on imposing their own views, not through better arguments, but by shutting now those who oppose them. This afternoon, In Ocala, Florida, as Republican veep nominee Paul Ryan gave a campaign speech, malingers gathered nearby, bent on disrupting the rally.
Back to Twitter. Why not protect the speech rights of tweeters like prominent African-American actress, Stacey Dash (“Clueless”), who recently urged her 200,000 followers to vote for Romney. Almost immediately, scores of threats on her life. Hey, Twitter, these are the people you need to use your broom on.
Censorship has its place against those who sanction violence, or like those just mentioned. Otherwise, as I’ve said, fight a bad idea with a better one.
John Stuart Mill was spot on when in he wrote in On Liberty, that “if all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
I suspect the roots of Twitter’s action is money. Nicholas Kulish, writing in the New York Times, takes us back to last summer’s Olympics when Twitter blocked the account of a British journalist who heavily criticized NBC’s reporting of the Games. (NBC is one of Twitter’s corporate sponsors.) Twitter later apologized and reinstated the account.
Twitter may have opened up a Pandora’s box for itself. So far, six governments have made requests for site closures.