Twitter's Future as a Defender of Free Speech

Now that Twitter has become a massive global company, it is facing increasing pressure from governments that are not happy with its lack of restrictions on what users are allowed to post. A recent article from The Financial Times highlights the difficulties that Twitter is running into when dealing with issues of free speech.

In October, the social media company succumbed to pressure from the German government, after they demanded that Twitter remove all postings by a neo-nazi group. Despite being legal in the United States where Twitter is based, the postings were in violation of German law and Germany was able to pressure Twitter executives into removing them. This situation raises the question of how far Twitter is willing to go to protect the free speech of its users.

In January, Twitter announced that it would begin to censor tweets in countries that have, “different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.” Despite the change in policy, the company hopes to maintain transparency in its censorship process, posting all legal requests to remove content to ChillingEffects.org.

Twitter maintains that it continues to stand by its founding philosophy that, “the tweets must flow.” The company continues to fight for free speech and has been resistant to remove content despite increased pressure from other nations. In May Pakistan attempted to force Twitter to remove postings that it deemed blasphemous, but Twitter held strong and refused to do so.

As Twitter’s global popularity and influence grows, it is forced to deal with an increasingly complex balance between preventing groups of users from being offended and protecting the free speech of all its users. Most users can continue to post anything they want on Twitter without concern for censorship, but as difficult new situations present themselves and force Twitter to choose between its customers and its principles, it becomes clear that Twitter’s future as a medium for free speech may have its limitations.

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