Sometimes the things you think are trivial turn out to be much more substantial than you thought they could ever be. So it is with Twitter. Once thought by many to be a total waste of time, it proved the way to get the story without revision from Iran when Neda was gunned down on the street for being on the street, nothing more.
The people who are behind Twitter are showing me more and more that there is some integrity and intelligence there, which I admit I had previously not seen. In a story on the old VNUNet website, now called v3.co.uk, there is a story detailing the position of the people in charge against censorship, in areas such as China and Iran. Because of the distributed nature of their product they are in a position to thumb their noses at the governments of those nations, and get information through in both directions.
Twitter has revealed that it is trying to stop its service being censored or blocked by foreign governments such as those of Iran and China, according to widespread reports.
Twitter chief executive Evan Williams said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the site is working on a number of ways to avoid censorship, and will not engage with governments on the issue.
“The most productive way to fight being blocked is not by trying to engage China and other governments whose very being is against what we are about,” Williams is quoted as saying in the International Business Times.
Williams added that the wide range of distribution streams on which Twitter can run, including syndication sites andmobile applications, means that the site has a better chance of evading government censorship than single sites.
Twitter was hacked last year by a group calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army after the site had been used by anti-government protesters to arrange demonstrations and spread information outside the country.
The company’s stance also underlines the growing concerns of western organisations and governments about the Chinese government’s attitude to web censorship.
Google threatened to pull out of China two weeks ago after a hack on its systems appeared to have originated in the country, and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton subsequently stepped in to urge China to review the allegations.
However, a report in The Times claimed that World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee said at Davos that discussion is the best way to get governments like China to agree to stop censorship of search terms and open up the internet.
Twitter’s announcement follows the launch of location-based Trending Topics to allow users to see the most popular topics in individual countries and cities.
I am reminded of that great poster from the late ‘70s where a lone small mouse is standing up, giving an otherwise inappropriate hand gesture to a large hunting bird, probably a hawk of some kind, as it was about to swoop on the mouse, making it a night’s meal. The poster was called “The Last Great Act of Defiance”. Twitter is like that little mouse about to be swooped upon by the bird, noting its impending doom (of censorship), unabashedly saying that living free is everything.
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