According to The New York Times’ Bits column, Twitter has sent a message that will flutter in the timeline. The social media microblogger will censor content viewed as inflammatory by selective nations. A grey widget will pop up in the time feed, stating that, “This tweet from @username will be withheld in: Nation X.” Disruptive content could range from banned literature written by Salman Rushdie to criticism of oppressive global regimes. Twitter’s previous policy included an absolute removal of content on a worldwide scale, rather than a selective process of elimination.
The U.S. Government would alert Twitter of content it wished to be removed for security reasons. A few users have speculated that government officials are looking to manage the influence of offline sociopolitical movements (Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring) that mobilized in the content stream. Others are enraged after the company voiced its disapproval of the SOPA bill, but did not black out with Wikipedia two weeks ago. Some analysts feel that Twitter wants to penetrate market sectors with competing platforms and stronger firewalls (China). Their strategy’s motive will be revealed in time.
In my mind, the message is clear. Content may be king. Censorship wants to be the checkmate. The volume of communication across platforms has evolved to such a high degree that governmental intervention is not surprising. Social media is a young communication device. The medium has empowered the voice of many users, giving strength to the disenfranchised. Consumers express their beliefs in unlimited community forums. As opposed to prior forms of expression in world history, digital censorship has no tangibility. Firewall proxies are solved by hackers within minutes. The facts are simple. Borders do not exist in cyberspace. Censorship cannot control the unseen.
Abdul Fattah Ismail is a digital marketing specialist with expertise in content development. He lives in New York and is an MBA graduate in Marketing Management from St. John’s University. He has contributed articles for Blueliner Marketing and Talent Zoo.