A strong public narrative has been built up by the mainstream media around Twitter, and social media in general, in recent years. Television news shows love to tell us how Twitter is such a great force for freedom, making state censorship futile in a world where ordinary people can each share information and news directly with each other, bypassing the censors at state controlled media outlets and fuelling Arab spring style revolutions. In some countries this narrative may be true. But is Twitter truly the enemy of the censors or the greatest gift they have ever recieved? In the West at least, I would suggest that it is the later.
Once upon a time the powers that be had the power to censor what large media corporations were saying. And they still have this power. Back then, however, the ordinary man in the street could claim to have freedom of speech. But now through Twitter, as well as other social media, they can censor everyone. You, me, anyone – what you say is being monitored. And because the censors don’t read your tweets before you publish them its not longer about preventing publication – people are being jailed.
The trigger for me writing this article today is the news today that a Greek Olympic athlete has been dropped from the team over comments on Twitter (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18987678), but the motivation behind it is a growing trend which has been going on for some time now. I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve read about people being sacked, forced to make a public apology or even prosecuted over jokes and other comments on Twitter. At first it was celebrities being forced to make apologies, then it was regular citizens being arrested.
Its time we dropped this false narrative about social media being a haven of free speech, when all the evidence suggests that its the exact opposite. Here is a small selection of other UK stories about Twitter related censorship.
Twitter Trials are No Joke (Tech Radar)
Oh, and btw, this is all completely separate from the fact the Twitter censors users itself