Friday, October 21, 2016

Censorship and Social Media

censor
\ˈsen(t)-sə

transitive verb

: to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable <censor the news>; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable <censor out indecent passages>






TrangBang.jpgIn recent years, as social media platforms have grown, they have also grown their affection with censorship. For example, when a slew of people from the Norwegian government posted "The Terror of War", a photo from the Vietnam war, the posts were removed because of child nudity. However, this iconic and important image was presented within a context where this should considered okay because it’s critical to talk about what this image represents. Unfortunately, on a platform as large as Facebook, it’s hard to distinguish between contexts where child nudity is okay to be shared and when it isn’t.

Facebook isn't the only culprit here. Two years ago, Rupi Kaur posted a series of picture to Instagram. The photos depicted menstruation and were a comment on society's fear of it. Proving her point, Instagram took her photos down twice. This was despite the fact that there are many photos of women in depicted objectifying ways, even those underage.

Twitter has a country-specific withheld content system. They take requests from governments to block specific tweets or whole accounts that contain content illegal in that country. For example, Turkey has Twitter censoring many anti-government journalists there. In fact, Turkey is the country that requests the most censorship from Twitter.

One question remains: is this ethical? On one side, it allows people in countries with government censorship to access these services, if only in part; these are most often private platforms so they should have the write to remove content as they please on their own sites; and it protects people from content that could harm them, such as hate speech. However, it suppresses new ideas which could have been beneficial to society; it often supports tyrannical governments as those are usually the ones which enact censorship; it ruins the only possibility of truly free speech, the internet; and are treated as public commons so there's an argument that they should be treated as such.

I find it extremely difficult to choose one side to this argument. I find that this, as most ethical questions do, remains in the grey. While I support the companies' rights to manage their own sites as they please, censorship on such universally used means of communication can be quite dangerous. The only fair solution to this I see is creating an alternative platform. Unfortunately, that would only be a temporary solution as its growth would inevitably force it to follow the same path as its predecessors: from free speech supporters to censors themselves.

Sources

http://www.cjr.org/analysis/censorship_in_the_social_media_age.php


https://onlinecensorship.org/

http://technosociology.org/?p=131

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/censoring

http://www.newstatesman.com/internet/2014/06/social-media-has-been-privatised-why-do-we-treat-it-public-space

https://support.twitter.com/articles/20169222