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This article was published on January 28, 2011

Amid oppression in Egypt, Twitter’s founder stands up for freedom of expression

Amid oppression in Egypt, Twitter’s founder stands up for freedom of expression

While some people Tweet about breakfast and the weather, others Tweet about events as earth-shattering as an Earthquake and as revolutionary as a country’s uprising, like the recent crises in both Egypt and Tunisia. Both country’s governments shut down shut down services like Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube to cut down on modes of communication during protests.

Today in Egypt, the government cut off the Internet from entire cities, even going so far as to force Vodafone to disconnect its telecom services, leaving thousands of citizens unable to communicate while the police attacked protesters and journalists, even arresting a Nobel laureate.

This kind of oppression and control is beyond disheartening; it is dehumanizing. We turn to news platforms such as Twitter for real-time communication with our peers and the truth of what’s going on in the world from respected media authorities. Twitter enables every citizen in the world to access this kind of information with lightning speed. But with great power, comes great responsibility, and Twitter is defining its media position by standing up for freedom of expression and dealing with any bumps in the road with as much transparency as possible.

In Twitter’s latest blog post, titled “The Tweets Must Flow,” Twitter founder Biz Stone outlines the company’s goal to “keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content.” With the open exchange of information available on Twitter, the company must address the practical and ethical impact of its content. But with millions of Tweets per day, Twitter can not realistically review each one. Stone says the company has identified its responsibilities and limits; they remove Tweets that are illegal or spammy, but they will not strive to remove Tweets on the basis of their content.

Twitter is working with Chilling Effects, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and numerous schools including Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics. The project deals with issues like Copyright, Domain Names and Trademarks, Anonymous Speech and Defamation. In an effort to be as transparent as possible, Twitter submits all copyright removal notices to @chillingeffects and they are now Tweeting them from @ChillFirehose.

We will continue to increase our transparency in this area and encourage you to let us know if you think we have not met our aspirations with regard to your freedom of expression. -Biz Stone

Twitter has created a curated list @twitter/freedom-of-expression, so users can follow respected intellectuals and relative media sources to learn more about why it’s so important to maintain and promote this right.

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