It seems that freedom of speech and social media do not go hand in hand. Recently, there have been many arrests over tweets and Facebook posts. Until recently, Twitter had never blocked an account, but after a group in Germany started tweeting neo-Nazi comments it decided to take this unprecedented step. It has also agreed to remove a series of anti-Semitic tweets coming from France.
These blockages are blocked locally only, and there has been much public outcry. Social media is supposed to be personal, but if the public is going to be censored, then how personal can we really be. Facebook is always saying that the Timeline is a reflection of you as an individual, but it will end up being a filtered reflection. This will have people up in arms.
In the past week, two Indian women were arrested over a Facebook comment. They expressed opinions over Mumbai being shut down after the death of the politician Bal Thackeray. Shaheen Dhanda simply posted: “People like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a ‘bandh’ [shutdown] for that.” Her friend Renu Srinivasan did no more than “like” the status. They were both arrested for “promoting enmity between classes”. Some media members have branded this as a clear case of abuse of authority.
In other parts of the world, more legal action surrounding social media is rearing its ugly head. A British politician, Lord McAlpine, plans to sue 10,000 Twitter users after some false information (a child sexual abuse scandal) spread in cyberspace. The accuser has apologised. The BBC’s Newsnight, which implicated him in the scandal, has settled, paying him £185,000. If this case goes to trial, it will be the largest number of defendants in British history.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of freedom of speech and social media, and there are not even guidelines or any regulations around for the public to follow.
So are we in for a Filtered Facebook or Muted Twitter in the future? We would love to hear your thoughts.