27 January 2012

Tunisia: Twitter Users React With Anger, Dismay At Twitter's Decision to Comply With Censorship Regimes

In Tunisia, at least 14 people have been killed in protests against high unemployment and high prices.And after days of unrest in neighbouring ... ( Resource: Tunisia's Press Blackout )

Tunisians reacted with anger after a new twitter policy was announced. The social network may now "re-actively withhold content from users in a specific country," so that Twitter can further expand globally and "enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression."

On the company blog, Twitter explained: We haven't yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld. As part of that transparency, we've expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page, http://chillingeffects.org/twitter, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

Yassine Ayari, a Tunisian blogger with over 9300 followers on Twitter said that the company's decision is "a big mistake."

" Twitter should do the opposite because people living in countries with governments that are censorship regimes need Twitter to fight censorship," Ayari said.

Ayari added that these kinds of decisions only "support the system of dictatorship."

Tunisian blogger Malek Khadraoui (co-founder of the highly regarded collective blog Nawaat), also declared his strong opposition to the company's decision, "I am against any type of censorship," he asserted.

According to Khadroui, Twitter played a major role during the Tunisian Revolution. "Twitter was link between international media and what was happening in the streets of Tunisia, journalists from around the world were following what was happening in Tunisia through Twitter," he added.

"I was not actually surprised by this measure, after all Twitter is a private enterprise, however, I wonder what basis will Twitter use to classify the countries that need censorship," he added.

Khadraoui has more than 5600 followers on Twitter.

Linda Ben Othman, a blogger and a Twitter user who has more than 3600 followers, said that Twitter was a critical source of information during the Revolution. "People knew what was happening in Tunisia through Twitter."

" I really think that this announcement was mainly for money and economic reasons, Twitter is the only social network where we can express ourselves freely, this is sad," she stated.

Wajd Ben Abdallah, is also a blogger, with more than 25, 300 followers on Twitter. He said that during the revolution, traditional media was completely absent from following what was happening in the country, while the social network sites - Facebook and Twitter - were informing the whole world moment by moment about what was happening in Tunisia. "Activists relied on Twitter to publish videos and bring the reality of the situation in Tunisia at the time when the official Tunisian media was totally absent," she added.

Regarding the censorship of Twitter, she said "it is such a shame that a space that is a sanctuary for delivering news and freedom of expression would make such an announcement."

"This is a real coup against freedom, I believe, the credibility of Twitter is on the line because millions trusted it as a tool for communication and even more to broadcast the news at the time of our revolutions," she added.

Ben Abdallah also asserted that if twitter does not take its decision back, people will look for alternatives.

Twitter is giving itself the right to withhold content in specific countries, while keeping that content available for the rest of the world. According to some Twitter users there will be a boycott of the site tomorrow in protest against this decision.

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