current affairs

The future of free speech in the social media world

Last month the Turkish government ordered a ban on Twitter. It only lasted a few days, but raised questions on censorship of social media across the globe.

Last month the Turkish government ordered a ban on Twitter. It only lasted a few days, but raised questions on censorship of social media across the globe. Why are social media such a threat to governments and why do they feel the need to censor them?

Constant control of governments

Turkey is not the first country to see its social media banned by its leaders. China has been under the spotlights for years regarding its online censorship and lack of freedom of speech on the Internet. Why are Twitter or Facebook seen as a threat by such governments?

China has not only been criticized for its censorship on the Internet. Classified 175th out of 180 countries on the world press freedom index 2014 of Reporters Without Borders, the country has a huge passion for control and therefore a massive lack of freedom in the media in general.

Internet came as a nightmare as it is laborious to control and from there was born the Great Firewall of China. Social media are monitored by thousand of people working for the government looking for anything that would go against the current regime.

The major problem for governments is the overwhelming freedom social media give to citizens. It can’t be fully controlled, and this is frightening.

How users get around it

This massive Internet surveillance forces users to be creative and find ways to get around the censorship.

After Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blocked access to the social networking site Twitter, its use actually increased 138 per cent.

How is that possible? Users are using services to replace their IP address with a new one masking their location which enables them to access restricted websites.

In Vietnam, one of the worst states for freedom on the Internet, users need to be innovative if they want to overcome the censorship. To get past the ban on Facebook, Vietnamese users used to access the social website through URL variants, which have now been spotted and made impossible to access.

Users invent all kind of ways to manage to access the restricted websites and have the freedom to use social media.

What future for freedom of speech?

Internet is a public space, so there is obviously a need for freedom and people around the world should be equal regarding what they can post and write. Should it really depend on the country you live in or the customs or should it be a universal regulation against racism, antisemitism or misogyny for example?

Governments should consider putting the ban on things that affect human integrity but political views should be free to share in any country.

There is a need to find a good mix between freedom of speech and a legislation to make sure the Internet doesn’t become an ideological drift.

Is freedom of speech on the Internet too utopian? Will governments accept critics on their decisions and actions? This is probably a never-ending debate, which will stay the dream of an ideal world.

What do you think of the recent ban? Have your say in the comments section below.