By Zuleyka Zevallos
(Note: I first published this post on Storify on the 28th of January.)
One year ago, Twitter celebrated that it would uphold free speech as a ‘human right‘ for countries that had censorship laws. On the 26th of January, Twitter announced a back-flip on its previous public pronouncement that it was the bastion of free speech:
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. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.
Twitter’s blog includes a link to Chilling Effects, a site that alerts users about what content has been flagged for censorship. The complaints currently listed are about media content. What will happen when the complaints are about freedom of expression for various political activist groups?
The language Twitter uses is about weeding out ‘Nazis’ but its decision to comply with censorship is clearly a business consideration. Yes, Twitter is a business – but since it has been selling itself as a champion of international freedom and communication, its new policy is compromising one of its strongest marketing points. As Forbes magazine pointed out, the Nazi example is a poor misrepresentation of what the changes might mean.