Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cost of Doing Business?

After reading the news story about Twitter censoring tweets in certain country if the leadership of that country says the tweets and the individual is acting illegally, I'm struck with some questions. Twitter has already said the policy is now in effect with some chances original tweets may be posted but then censored as may be the person. Ok, some much for right of free speech.

As we know Google tried to argue against this policy with their work in China and lost the argument and eventually bowing to restrictions on videos, search words, and users if requested by the government. We know Yahoo provided detailed user information and use of their Website to the government in China to investigage and later convict individuals. Ok, so much for right of privacy.

And now Twitter. Companies are learning it's a better corporate strategy to accommodate governments in certain countries for the customers and business in that country, mostly China with its billion-plus population and potential revenue and profit. China knows this and is exploiting it while the corporations agree and sometimes helps the government.

We also know there are at least half a dozen countries where the government has imposed or will impose restrictions because of the authoritarian rule in that country to silence the voice of the people. But my question is what about the rest of the countries, what if they have or elect government who believe some "small" measure of restrictions are necessary for the security of the country.

What will Twitter and the other companies do? Will they fight any requests, or will they see the business is worth more than the censorship, money triumphs free speech? We know there are many government would love to enact restrictions to protect their government and its activities, some being secret or illegal.

But more to the point what happens when our govenment (US) decides that fighting terrorism is more important than free speech. We already has the unnecessary Patriot Act to investigate any citizen without cause or reason, just a national security letter expressing the FBI thinks, note not know or has proven, the person "may" be related to other who terrorists or "may" have indirectly provided material support to terrorists.

We know that all tweets are now being archived in the Smithsonian Museum as a permanent part of our history, every tweet from every person, including the censored one. But what if the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) thinks someone's tweets are encouraging terrorism or other illegal activities, would Twitter block those words and tweets?

Would Twitter block tweets and users if our government decided certain words are unacceptable to the government, be it pornography, artistic expression, etc. and not just censor those words - they may be doing that already anyway - but obviously block them and the users just like China?

Sounds far fetched here? So would be the Patriot Act in 2000. We know you can not publically advocate actions against the federal government or employees on-line through any source, including Twitter, and I have no doubt the federal investigative agencies are constantly monitoring all tweets for such words and advocacy.

But what if they decided other issues and actions constitute the same level of censorship which are inherently or obviously illegal, like abortion, rape, etc., and the government decided the public should not hear or read those words or have access to ask for help with an abortion or after being raped? Is it the slippery slope folks argure?

The key is that once a company wanders off the straight and narrow road they set for the policy of free speech for everyone, they can't go back to the road. The new road puts them going in a direction where some measure of censorship will be the norm, set not by the company but by the government. Government wil control with the company allows.

And yes, consider the possible reality it's not that far from being in so-called free countries, including the US. It only take a government to express it, such as a Republican Congress and President passing a law, and then making it a reality. It can easily be done in the same of protecting and defending this country and the people from internal terrorism and terrorists of any type or about any issue.

And will Twitter do then and tell users it's only complying with the law of the country? We've seen our government has decided it can trump, and to some trample, the Constitution. Will it do it over words? And would Twitter comply?

No comments:

Post a Comment