Monday, January 30, 2012

Twitter Censorship: Choosing Half a Loaf?

"Twitter Switches on the Censors"
Alyssa Danigelis, Tech News, Discovery News (January 28, 2011)

"The social networking site Twitter finds itself between a rock and a hard place in foreign countries where speech isn't always free. On the one hand, Twitter's leadership doesn't want the whole site banned in those countries. On the other, what's a dictatorial government going to do with a social networking site that helps stir up civil dissent? The answer: Ban it. But that's not good for business.

"So the site that helped fuel the Arab Spring last year and briefly brought Iranian protests to the fore in 2009 just announced that it's going to start dancing with the censorship devil. In the past, if a tweet had to be removed from the site for legal reasons -- usually copyright infringement -- it was taken down universally. Now, the tweet can be taken down from one country and still seen by tweeters in other countries...."

'It can't happen here?' America has a pretty good track record for allowing citizens to voice opinions. McCarthyism and the heyday of political correctness are, in the Lemming's opinion, not examples of 'business as usual' in this country.

On the other hand, Congress almost took control of the comics industry. That was the early 1950s:'Public morals' might still work as an excuse to muzzle dissent: although the Lemming thinks that sort of censorship would now be packaged as 'saving the children.' We had a close call about a year ago, when controlling search engine results was marketed as "search neutrality."

This year, the line was "piracy." So far, Congress seems to have decided to wait until folks forget about SOPA and PIPA. Maybe the Lemming's being unfair.

"Different Ideas About ... Freedom"

"...'As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there,' the announcement from Twitter says.

"Any time a tweet is censored, the company says it will notify the person who tweeted it and describe the removal on a Twitter-specific section of ChillingEffects.org...."

There's a joke that was old when the Soviet Union turned into Russia, and a lot of smaller countries. Several, actually, but this one almost applies to Twitter and censorship:

An American and a Russian were comparing their countries. The American said his was better, because Americans have freedom of speech. "I could stand in front of the White House and say, 'the president is stupid!' "

"Ha," replied the Russian. "We also have freedom of speech! I could stand in front of the Kremlin and say, 'the American president is stupid!' "

Like Twitter said, some countries "have different ideas about ... freedom of expression."

Half a Loaf?

Ideally, no country's government would try to keep its citizens from voicing their opinions. But we don't live in an ideal world.

The Lemming thinks that the "half a loaf is better than none" principle applies here. Twitter is probably taking a sensible approach: allowing people in tightly-managed countries access to some service.

In the Lemming's opinion, folks are pretty good at communicating: even when their 'betters' don't want them to. 'Songs of the underground railroad' and spirituals may or may not have been a case in point. The lack of written evidence may be connected to the reason that "composer of jazz" is pretty close to being an oxymoron. And that's another topic.

Songs

Somewhere, some time since folks started working the bugs out using fire without killing themselves, there may have been a culture without music. If so, the Lemming suspects that they didn't last long: and left precious few traces. But that's just an opinion.

A fair number of folks have valued songs for over two dozen centuries:

"Among all men on the earth bards have a share of honor and reverence, because the muse has taught them songs and loves the race of bards."
Homer, The Odyssey (Greek epic poet (800 BC - 700 BC))

"Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable."
Samuel Johnson (English author, critic, & lexicographer (1709 - 1784))

Not everybody sees music quite the same way:

"The whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there a meaning to music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that would be, 'No.' "
Aaron Copland (US composer (1900 - 1990))

"A musicologist is a man who can read music but can't hear it."
Sir Thomas Beecham (English conductor (1879 - 1961))

Wrenching himself back on-topic, the Lemming offers:

Freedom and Other Inconveniences

"The basis of a democratic state is liberty."
Aristotle, Politics (Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC))

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759 (US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 - 1790))

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
Thomas Jefferson, to Archibald Stuart, 1791 (3rd president of US (1743 - 1826))

"If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other."
Carl Schurz (US (German-born) general & politician (1829 - 1906))

"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered."
G. K. Chesterton (English author & mystery novelist (1874 - 1936))

"The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech."
Justice Anthony Kennedy, in 91-155 (US jurist (1936 - ))

And that's yet another topic.

Related posts:

2 comments:

Steve said...

Very good, and interesting post. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

Brian Gill said...

Steve,

My pleasure. And, thanks.

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