Tag Archives: Arab Spring

What did that whale say?
Fredrick Douglass once likened people who claimed to support freedom — but who discouraged agitation — to people who want to grow crops without plowing up the ground. 140 characters or not, it seems like an appropriate response to the news that Twitter has developed the ability to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis.

I know this isn’t a simple issue. Many countries, wary of the potentially destabilizing force of social media, simply will not allow companies like Twitter to operate unless they agree to some form of censorship. Even Google, who two years ago pulled access to their main search engine in a dispute with Chinese authorities, recently began softening its rhetoric in an attempt to regain lost time and market share.

One could make the case that a policy of engaging with oppressive regimes helps them become more liberal — even if only in small, slow increments. Change takes time and maybe half a loaf of Twitter is better than none at all.

But whether you think that idea makes sense or not, this much is clear: Many companies who market their products as tools to empower individuals are, in fact, actually building them in ways which aid in subjugating those same people. [Read more…]