U.S. government threatens free speech with calls for Twitter censorship

What so often gets forgotten about the nature of free speech is that its sole value lies in protecting the right of public communication for those organizations and individuals that governments would rather silence. Speech that is utterly inoffensive is never in need of protection.

At the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jillian C. York and Trevor Timm write about the growing number of calls for Twitter to ban the accounts of America’s designated enemies.

In a December 14th article in the New York Times, anonymous U.S. officials claimed they “may have the legal authority to demand that Twitter close” a Twitter account associated with the militant Somali group Al-Shabaab. A week later, the Telegraph reported that Sen. Joe Lieberman contacted Twitter to remove two “propaganda” accounts allegedly run by the Taliban. More recently, an Israeli law firm threatened to sue Twitter if they did not remove accounts run by Hezbollah.

Twitter is right to resist. If the U.S. were to pressure Twitter to censor tweets by organizations it opposes, even those on the terrorist lists, it would join the ranks of countries like India, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Syria, Uzbekistan, all of which have censored online speech in the name of “national security.” And it would be even worse if Twitter were to undertake its own censorship regime, which would have to be based upon its own investigations or relying on the investigations of others that certain account holders were, in fact, terrorists.

Let’s review the various calls for Twitter to censor their site and the possible causes of action: [Continue reading…]

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