Free speech losing its voice

Jan 28, 2012, 09:50 IST | MiD DAY Correspondent
So, another giant has decided to opt for a bit of humble pie. Microblogging juggernaut Twitter has reportedly 'refined' its technology, enabling it to now censor messages on a country-by-country basis. In other words, say goodbye to your ability to comment on anything and everything.

The company obviously looks at this in terms of practicality: The more it can make finicky governments the world over happy, the easier it will be for it to expand into new territories and broaden its audience base. Sadly, for users, this means the San Francisco-based platform's commitment to free speech is no longer a priority.

It's easy to see why these changes have been implemented. Governments the world over are a lot more wary of social networking today than they were on March 21, 2006 -- the day co-founder Jack Dorsey became the first person to send a tweet. Consider the role Twitter has since played in everything from mobilising flash mobs to instigating political protests, and you can see why its increasing clout makes a lot of people nervous.

It has made a few concessions though. For example, tweets can now be taken down in countries where they are perceived as offensive, while being allowed to stay elsewhere. It also intends to post a censorship notice whenever a tweet is removed. The moves are in keeping with what another giant, Google, did in order to manoeuvre its way around tough censorship laws.

For now, uncensored tweets continue to clog timelines because the company hasn't used its new tools to wipe out tweets in individual countries yet. It's only a matter of time though. Which brings us to a few questions: Who do you think has the right to decide whether or not your comment is offensive? Who, in India, will draw that proverbial line?

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