U.S. Government Threatens Free Speech

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News of Note: U.S. Government Threatens Free Speech With Calls for Twitter Censorship

EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] has witnessed a growing number of calls in recent weeks for Twitter to ban certain accounts of alleged terrorists. In a December 14th article in the New York Times, anonymous U.S. officials claimed they “may have the legal authority to demand that Twitter close” a Twitter account associated with the militant Somali group Al-Shabaab. A week later, the Telegraph reported that Sen. Joe Lieberman contacted Twitter to remove two “propaganda” accounts allegedly run by the Taliban. More recently, an Israeli law firm threatened to sue Twitter if they did not remove accounts run by Hezbollah.

Twitter is right to resist.  If the U.S. were to pressure Twitter to censor tweets by organizations it opposes, even those on the terrorist lists, it would join the ranks of countries like India, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Syria, Uzbekistan, all of which have censored online speech in the name of “national security.”  And it would be even worse if Twitter were to undertake its own censorship regime, which would have to be based upon its own investigations or relying on the investigations of others that certain account holders were, in fact, terrorists.

Twitter is a tool for communication. When you look at revolutions in countries like Egypt, and the role Twitter played in organizing the people, of course governments are going to be afraid. Just as Twitter helps revolutionaries, it also helps victims of natural disasters. Freedom of speech is under greater threat as the Internet enables wider communication and access to information. Because the information age enables greater freedom than ever before, it is going to become harder every day for our government to pull a veil over our eyes. They aren’t going to give up and neither should we.

Creative Commons image: source