Being the first of the social media websites to be blocked in Egypt in the wake of the anti-government protests, the microblogging site Twitter has churned out a blog on the importance of freedom of expression.
Our goal is to instantly connect people everywhere to what is most meaningful to them. For this to happen, freedom of expression is essential, starts the blog co-authored by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and the company's General Counsel and former Google lawyer Alexander Macgillivray.
With the post, titled 'The Tweets Must Flow', the site seemed to be portraying itself as a trusty messenger that was dedicated to the flow of information across the globe - be it tweets that facilitate positive change in a repressed country or tweets that makes make us laugh, think, or even invoke anger.
We don't always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content, the site stated.
Stressing that open exchange of information can have a positive global impact, Twitter sought to clarify that while it was not practical for it to review all the tweets, the ethical belief held by almost every country in the world is freedom of expression is a human right.
However, Twitter contended, freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits.
There are Tweets that we do remove, such as illegal Tweets and spam. However, we make efforts to keep these exceptions narrow so they may serve to prove a broader and more important rule-we strive not to remove Tweets on the basis of their content, the post said.
The site was among the first to be blocked in Egypt after protests broke out against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak broke out last Tuesday. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook came under censorship after the authorities found that the dissidents used these websites to organize rallies.
This is not the first instance of Twitter coming under a government blockade. In 2009, China blocked Twitter and other internet services after the outbreak of ethnic riots, in a remote western province. This move was intended to snap the flow of information out of Xinjiang province and to prevent further rioting.
Twitter recently also earned praises for fighting for the right to take the Department of Justice subpoena seeking details about all WikiLeaks-related accounts public. The December 2010 court order required the microblogging site to hand over details of all the private messages or communications that took place between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, other WikiLeaks staffers, associates, volunteers, WikiLeaks, Pfc., as well as Bradley Manning, the man suspected to be the source of the cables leak. The site, which was also required to give out huge amount of information on the WikiLeaks' Twitter followers, legally fought for the right to inform the users of the subpoena.
In the latest blog post, Twitter yet again asserted its fight towards transparency.
Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users' right to speak freely and preserve their ability to contest having their private information revealed. While we may need to release information as required by law, we try to notify Twitter users before handing over their information whenever we can so they have a fair chance to fight the request if they so choose, the post said, adding, We continue to work towards further transparency when we remove Tweets for legal reasons.
@biz and @amac concluded saying, Discussion on topics from geopolitical events to wardrobe malfunctions make Twitter both important and fun. Providing the tools that foster these discussions and following the policies that keep them alive is meaningful work for us.