Twitter Accused of Censorship, Does it Need Circuit Breakers?

In the wake of Israel raiding ships carrying aid en route for Gaza, sparking furor on Twitter, something strange happened on the micro-blogging site that stirred a lot of reactions. The hashtag, a way to categorize information on Twitter, pertaining to the raid was #flotilla. It somehow disappeared from Twitter trends for a while before reappearing.

Whether it was a technical snafu or actual censorship, this issue raises flags about Twitter for many as well as about the very essence of the openness of social media.

Had you tried yesterday the standard URL to search for the latest on the subject – http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23flotilla – you would

have briefly gotten a result saying “Twitter error”. Was it an honest mistake, a technically algorithmic mishap or an act of censorship?

Many were quick to defend Twitter as censorship not being in “present in its DNA”. Sean Garrett (@SG), communication head for Twitter, tweeted:

Sean Garrett Tweet re Flotilla

Just as many did ask the question: Was Twitter censoring the #flotilla related tweets because those were, in their majority, critical of Israel?

Mike Butcher (@mikebutcher) from TechCrunch Europe outlined in great details the technicalities of the hashtag disappearance to conclude it related to Twitter’s anti-spam algorithm rules

#Flotilla Google trends

being tripped by the rapid rise of the #flotilla hashtag. Also explaining why, at the same time, #Israil (Turk for Israel) was trending instead of its English version. This, all the while “twitter flotilla” was strongly trending on Google.

John Dean Techcrunch EU Comment Flotilla

But several comments, without being political, did not seem to buy the explanation. As “John Dean” called the conclusion flawed.

Others, such as “Imran”, outright mocked the explanation. Comparing to the otherwise long-trending topic of  the Iranian elections topic, even driving users to add a greenish taint to  their avatars in support of the protestors.

Imran-Comment-Techcrunch-Flotilla-twitter-trend.png

Despite Mike Butcher’s plea to keep politics out the TechCrunch post, comments inevitably veered towards heated exchanges on conspiracy theories.

Fayez Techcrunch Comment location based flotilla

Charles Arthur (@CharlesArthur), technology editor at The Guardian, seconded the snafu as technical by pointing to an independent map (Trendsmap) showing people quickly shifting hashtag to #freedomflotilla after the disappearance of the shorter version and which trended rapidly thus, according to the author, disproving the censorship theory.

Tom Foremski (@TomForemski) from the Silicon Valley Watcher, on the other hand brought up the idea of whether Twitter, and social media in general, was in need of the same “circuit breakers” in place for the stock market; for instance when

“…news dissemination is far faster, far more viral, and the subject might be something which could trigger in riots, violence, or other possible distress, to a society or region?”

Regardless of political orientation and the reasons behind the temporary vanishing of the #flotilla hashtag, this issue raised flags about Twitter for many as well as about the very essence of the openness of social media.

If social media is about openness and trust, wouldn’t “social circuit breakers” defeat the whole purpose of social and new media and its promise? Does this mean that people will in the future relinquish common sense and judgment to social networks? And even then, how long could the people be misguided by a “false” trend? Who would decide to trip the breaker? Humans or machines? How would that affect the very willingness to participate in social media? The question will eventually hinge on, how much information actually gets to people and how much of it might be filtered out.

What do you think? Did Twitter censor or was it simply a technical mishap? How about having circuit breakers?

New Media Fills The Gap Between Skewed And Biased [VIDEO]

The recent events in Bangkok further demonstrated the inevitable rise in the power new media affords. Communities that just a few years ago were left with no other options than ruminating their frustrations within a finite circle, now not only have the world at their fingertips, but they’re making their own version of it.
Not the filtered version of an oppressive government, not the one bogged down in shoving as much as possible inside sixty seconds with little regard for fact checking. It is their own view, that of their own reality molded by the very sheer masses that creates it.

Here is the skynnie of a great video by AlJazeera English (@AJEnglish).

Al Jazeera English has a great magazine “The Listening Post” available as podcast. Check out their Youtube Channel as well. Click here for the full length video

The road ahead is so bright we can only glimpse as we march on

Answer to the question posted by Brian Hawkins aka @StyleXplorers: “Do you think the “Twenteens” 2011 to 2019 will be yet another 3rd Decade?” I do think the ‘Twenteens’ will offer hardly fathomable opportunities driven by both opportunities and a threat:

Opportunities:

  • Tech & in particular the explosion of mobile. Cellphones shrank the world and ‘dis-enclaved’ billions of people allowing them to enter the world scene in ways they and we have never dreamed possible > new friends, new customers, new connections, new allies, new opportunities, louder voices giving way to less misinformation, maybe more (real) democracy, even more equality?
  • Socio-psychological: With louder voices, access to more information will come more power and more equalization, driven and fueled by ‘New Media’; dramatically shifting the way we live, interact with others, with businesses, with those supposed to rule us and the skills we and our kids will need to have to survive and succeed.

Threat:

  • The thinning of natural resources will force us to be smarter and look harder for alternatives and since we, the people, will only settle for better ways to live, the output from those alternatives is only dream-able today for most of us.

Imagine the possibilities, the opportunities opening up new kinds of enterprises, of jobs and degrees that are now needed to cater to an ever equalizing world, stripping more and more power from those who, so far, dictated to us what to wear, eat, say, think and do. Imagine the new world emerging. Many people still don’t realize the shift that is happening right now and the power that’s profiling itself for them on the horizon. Imagine the new world when most see the light and they will!

Take for just sip of what’s coming, and ponder on, the excellent ‘The People Formerly Known as the Audience’ manifesto written in 2006 (!), and still very much ahead of its time, by Jay Rosen from NYU (@jayrosen_nyu) and let me know what you think. Don’t miss the updates at the bottom to grasp the ‘beyond the media impact’ the fundamental shift we are living… right now.

I do believe the road ahead is so bright we can only catch a glimpse of what’s ahead as we march on. Do you?

The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all.

Link to initial post: Do you think the “Twenteens” 2011 to 2019 will be yet another 3rd Decade?