Twitter and its role in free speech
Internet freedom has become a huge issue as of late as more avenues open up in which people can express their ideas, and Twitter in right in the thick of the discussion.
Twitter has emerged as one of the premier social media platforms on the internet and many people turn to the outlet as a way to catalog their days and chime in on issues they feel are relevant. With messages that are limited to 140 characters, one would think that controversy via the medium would be limited as such, however, the Twitter community seems to always be embroiled in the freedom of speech debate.
Let it tweet, let it tweet
With over 200 million people using the service, there is plenty of room for difference in opinion, with controversy ranging from petty arguments between celebrities, to controversial remarks that send many into an uproar. For example, The Wall Street Journal reports that French prosecutors brought a case to court when some users tweeted anti-Semitic messages earlier this summer. This has often been the nature of these controversial tweets as the line between what is free speech and what is hate speech can be blurred when on the internet.
Many internet freedom controversies stem around this kind of issue, as many perpetrators of hate speech can hide behind the veil of the internet's anonymity, but Twitter is unique in that it tends to take a more hands off approach. With the exception of a few countries like China, which blocks the site entirely, and the United Kingdom which utilized libel laws to have some posts removed, the company has generally allowed Tweets to continue.
The New Yorker also examines the case of Anita Sarkeesian who created a series of videos about the portrayal of women in popular culture in mediums such as video games. The videos received a lot of sexist criticism, to the point where, on Twitter, speech took on the form of violent threats. This includes threats of rape. While she reported the violations, some of the accounts that were reported were not removed.
Free speech lawyer steps down
One of the more instrumental figures in Twitter and its defense of the hands off approach was its head lawyer, Alex Macgillvary. On Twitter and in a blog post he announced that he would be "passing the torch" as he would no longer be working for the company. He will, however, continue to advise the company in its legal actions, according to The Verge.
Over the last six years he was deeply involved in the legal issues surrounding the company, in which he fought for the rights of individual, pushing for posts to remain on the site, and not disclosing information about its users.
Where is the line
Twitter has long been a fighter of internet freedom, even going to lengths to create a PAC to advocate for the rights of internet freedom. In the wake of the controversies such as the PRISM program carried out by the NSA and other censorship issues, the company seeks to make the issue a greater priority in congress.
Such issues can become controversial as indicated by the recent legal action and criticism of the company but it does beg an important question. On a spectrum where such speech is allowed, or a program like PRISM, where do people want their rights to lie? The fact of the matter is, that a single statement can elicit any number of different reactions from a variety of people. With this in mind it can be difficult to draw a line as to what should and should not be allowed is difficult and for Twitter, it seems to be a discussion that needs to be had.