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Gonzalez 1 Ana Gonzalez Professor: Erin Dietel-McLaughlin WR 13300: Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric April 30th 2014 140 characters of freedom When I was younger, about 10 years ago, I was taught to report back to my mother every half hour to see if I was ok. Nevertheless, as the years have gone by my little cousin who is now 9 years old, is accustomed to just writing a text message saying he is fine. Through the use of technological artifacts, humankind has revolutionized its ways and has created a “global communication without boundaries” (Schifer, Porto 2013). This communication has even changed the way revolutions and oppressive governments deal with their people. Throughout my research of abusive governments and their relation with social media, I have come to notice a specific trend. This tendency is characterized by the closing of Twitter and Twitter accounts every time there is a risk or an actual protest going on in their countries. Although the majority of the reports of media censorship, come from developing countries’ abusive governments such as Egypt and

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Gonzalez PAGE 14Ana GonzalezProfessor: Erin Dietel-McLaughlinWR 13300: Multimedia Writing and RhetoricApril 30th 2014140 characters of freedom When I was younger, about 10 years ago, I was taught to report back to my mother every half hour to see if I was ok. Nevertheless, as the years have gone by my little cousin who is now 9 years old, is accustomed to just writing a text message saying he is fine. Through the use of technological artifacts, humankind has revolutionized its ways and has created a global communication without boundaries (Schifer, Porto 2013). This communication has even changed the way revolutions and oppressive governments deal with their people. Throughout my research of abusive governments and their relation with social media, I have come to notice a specific trend. This tendency is characterized by the closing of Twitter and Twitter accounts every time there is a risk or an actual protest going on in their countries. Although the majority of the reports of media censorship, come from developing countries abusive governments such as Egypt and Venezuela, the threat that Twitter presents can be further distinguished when even governments of developed countries such as the UK feel threatened by the influence of Twitter as a social media. Through my paper I intend to attract people that feel passionate about politics, justice, media and human rights. My targeted audience is people with some background knowledge of social media, specifically Twitter and some understanding of politics. I hope to introduce my audience to the relationship of social media censorshipspecifically Twitterand oppressive governments. I will present Twitters censorship by oppressive governments and private entities as a violation of human rights. To achieve my thesis I will expand on the role of governments as public entities and the relation of freedom of speech and democracy. I will elaborate on the role Twitter presents in society and how the audience and features of Twitter make it one of the most censored media in the world by oppressive governments. Through examples I will further develop my point and expand on the use of Twitter as a big voice in real-time media criticism (Poniewozik 2009) and elaborate in the role of Twitter in revolutions around the world. Governments are the functioning brain of every country. They are the ones that create solutions and provide improvements. They are responsible for understanding the needs of its people and resolving their issues. Together with the people and other governmental entities they form the body of a country. Of course, just like a brain, governments need the input from other parts of the body in order for a good job to be done. Nonetheless, when governments start to censor the people, they restrict their own senses and start basing their actions solely on what they think. According to Schifer and Porto, Locke referred to the basis for societys unity in the continuous civil war of opinions (89). There is no unity of a body if every part does not play its part, there is no unity in a country if the government does not let its people play their part and have freedom of speech. Oppressive governments around the world have been censoring freedom of speech to maintain their countries in control. Freedom of speech refers to, as in the article 19 of the Universal Acts of Human Rights, the right every person has to be free to speak their minds and express themselves. Every government that censors freedom of speech and therefore abuses its own citizens (Lagon 2013) is considered an abusive government. Twitter as a social network with an added news media component, has become one of the most censored social network by abusive powers. In Venezuela specifically, Twitter Inc. (TWTR) said the Venezuelan government blocked users online images as opposition groups marched through Caracas for a third day (Laya, Frier, Kurmanaev 2014). Meanwhile in a completely different continent Turkish Prime minister, vows to eradicate Twitter (Watson, Tuysuz 2014). Turkish government party, AKP, claims to be conservative democratic (Da,hsan 2008). And the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro claims to have a democratic, constitutional, peaceful revolution (Interview with Amanpour 2014). Nonetheless, Press freedom implies media autonomy (Hedwig 2006) and both countries censor media therefore violate human rights. Venezuelan and Turkish governments as established by Lagon, expose a faade of democracy but are in fact abusive governments. There are more than a hundred social networking sites, but Twitter seems to be the focus of abusive powers in their intent to keep their countries solely under their control. Twitter as an interface programmed with a space of expression of 140 characters, has created a sense of fear in governments which has caused them to censor Twitter. There are two main factors that assert the fear governments have in Twitter, its multidirectional nature and its users. Twitters multidirectional nature refers to the idea that as Schifer and Porto would describe, the user is the recipient and the creator of the information (65). This multidirectional nature compares with older mediums such as the newspaper, that instead of everyone sharing their opinions, they have a unidirectional nature. Unidirectional nature refers to, a sole transmitter of the information and the possibility of some recipients, but these recipients cannot interfere or edit the information provided (65). Further on, the information in Twitter, begins a process of bouncing off from one user to another and instead of leaving it to each person to come up with his or her own idea of the subject it creates a correlation of ideas that form from one individual to another. According to McKinney people keep coming back to Twitter because of the communication it enables (2010). They keep coming back because what they write is no longer a single news or idea but is a part of a group of ideas. An which could be be the base for an incredible new one. Also, the buttons of Favorite and retweet propose a positive reinforcement that promotes even more the involvement from the user in a certain subject.The audience, on the other hand, affects what the tweets are made of. Therefore, it affects how they are perceived by oppressive governments. These, although under the faade of democracy, are not considered democracies. Understanding that dictatorship is the form of government in which there is an abuse of power (Chenoweth, Young 2001) and democracy, in contrast, entails participation of the citizens in the decision-making process (Hedwig 2006). Therefore, any abuse of power such as censorship is considered anti-democratic, and in fact dictatorial. To this point, 57% of Twitters users are democrats or leaned democrats (Mitchell, Hitlin 2013). Thus, 57% of political tweets are against oppressive governments and present a claim that contradicts oppressive governments ideals. This in turn reflects the fear abusive governments have of Twitter, and the reason for its censorship. Moreover, stats show that Twitter has a particular appeal to younger adults (Duggan, Smith 2013). Just in the United States, the 2008 election demonstrated that young adults leaned strongly to the Democratic Party (Keeter, Horowitz and Tyson 2008). In Venezuela, a completely different situation, Students were the first to protest (BBC news, 2014) against the oppressive government of Nicolas Maduro. In my opinion, as a Venezuelan immersed in the politics of her country, I firmly believe students represent the majority of protesters in Venezuela. These statistics and examples show, young adults have a tendency for democracy, and as majoritarian participants of Twitter they form a great part of the democratic oriented Twitter users. Therefore, oppressive governments with their anti-democratic structure, have opposing views with more than half of Twitter users. An important point to be considered, is the credibility of Twitter. Mike Schmierbach and Anne Schmierbach raise this question when stating in their research that it deserves attention to question the credibility of media messages distributed by Twitter (2013). As they made their way to this argument, they added the lack of filtering that Twitter presents. Twitter, compared to other online sources, that are in fact considered as or more credible than offline content (2013), does not restrain the amount and quality of information that is published. The argument that Twitter does not provide accurate information, may in fact give reason for oppressive governments to censor it. Twitter as a news device, focuses on current events. Although it lacks filtering, its tweets come from the people to the people. Compared to other unidirectional media, tweets grow stronger with each new addition or retweetreblogging someone elses tweet. Twitter presents three methods that universally classify its tweets: retweeted tweets, normal tweets and tweets in trending topics. These three types of tweets work in such a way that any new tweet would be in the normal category, if many people retweeted it, it would show as retweeted (with the number of retweets) and if it forms part of a large number of similar tweets in topic, it will be under a trending topic (#). Further on, the verified sign next to each official account proves the authenticity and reliability of the source. Therefore, as Castillo, Mendoza and Poblete would assert, in Twitter there are methods that enable users to assess information credibility (2011). Thus, although the credibility of every tweet cannot be assured, the truth of events and the opinions of trustworthy sources can be obtained and are in fact, the predominant tweets. Oppressive governments maintain their control by censoring media and keeping their situation isolated from the world. They need to keep it isolated because of international intervention, but also to keep its own citizens from expressing their own views. In these two cases, governments are censoring freedom of speech. The audience and multidirectional nature of twitter not only produces 177 million tweets per day (Maeve, Brener 2013), or an enormous amount of flow of information, but it can also produce revolutions. Revolution according to The Merriam Webster dictionary means the attempt to end the rule of one government (2014). This attempt to change the ruling power or even change the way a country works is the enemy of oppressive governments.There are other social media tools that influence the political world, such as Facebook or Instagram. Nevertheless, Twitter has the aforementioned characteristics of rapid development that help coordinate (Howard 2013) manifestations such as the one in Egypt. Since Twitter has the availability of spreading its news very fast; any obstacle, turbulence or sudden event can be updated and resolved in a manner of minutes. As personal experience, in a protest in Venezuela in 2011, I was walking towards the meeting point in Plaza Venezuela, where the opposition leaders would present their cases and motivate their people, but an armed group of militaries were blocking the way to Plaza Altamira. Through Twitter, we were able to recognize this problem and come up with a new route to our destination and would not cause any more trouble. Twitter, more than any other social network is a source for instant information, that can contribute to the development of activities, political or not, around the world. Revolutions are organized around the world to make a change. They are sometimes peaceful and many times violent. They seek an ideal and most of the time they protest until achieving it. In the past, Revolutions were started by leaders who would gather up in secret meetings to overthrow a government. As the years have passed, nothing is really secret (Schifer, Porto 2003), revolutions have to be triggered instantaneously and have to reach hundreds of people very quickly. This is where twitter comes in. the flow of information is no longer a single idea but rather is a rapid progression of democratic ideals that although its source can be censored the idea no longer can. Therefore, more than the user itself, oppressive governments fear the production of ideas that can no longer be stopped or censored. The online activism presented in Twitter reveals the threat presented to oppressive governments. Nevertheless, protests start as a response to a critical situation. In Venezuela, they started because of the chaotic economic and security situation (Peeler 2014). In Egypt they started as a defense for three decades of violent repression and despotic rule (Gustin 2011). In Moldova 2009, Moldovans started to protest against Moldovas Communist leadership with the help of Twitter (Barry 2009). Protests and revolutions, start as an expression of a situation and Twitter as a medium has been a helper in starting an organizing them. Moreover, even in Irans elections in the Twitterverse, a separate uprising took place when Iranians demanded more coverage of the supposed fraudulent election through Twitter (Poniewozik 2009). What is very important to notice is that when oppressive governments censor Twitter they are not only trying to repress the revolution, which could be a valid governmental decision, rather they are censoring the right every person has to speak their mind. Twitter is an interface for expression, not an interface for starting revolutions. Although those expressions and ideas have the possibility of starting revolutions, their repression is a violation of a human right. In Venezuela, my native country, Twitter has another factor for being censored. Most of Twitters users, according to Maeve and Brenner (2001), have an income higher than $30000 a year, must have accessibility to the Internet and are located in urban areas. On the other hand, the oppressive government of Hugo Chavez preceded by Nicolas Maduro has a motto of Nation, Socialism or Death and succeed at the polls by mobilizing and winning the votes of the poor (Lupu 2010). With their socialist motto they have based their campaign in propagating resentment for the higher classes. They have expropriated numerous private companies and even even sent opposing political leaders to jail. This in turn, proposes a new factor for why the oppressive government of Venezuela is censoring twitter. They censor twitter not only because of what it is capable of dong but also because there is a resentment towards the higher class. There is clear social discrimination.Twitter as a medium according to Amnesty International In crisis, it can become a dangerous medium for rumors or misinformation (Amnesty International 2012). Twitter, as we stated, can trigger revolutions and maintain their productiveness. But, were do we draw the line were government intervention is necessary? Where does freedom of expression become a risk to society? According to the United Kingdoms Prime Minister, David Cameron, free flow of information can sometimes be a problem (Gross, 2011). This extended use of a medium to say whatever idea comes to a persons mind can produce dangerous effects such as the riots presented in the UK in 2011. Therefore, in 2012, Twitter announced a change in policy that deletes certain tweets in specific countries to abide by specific national laws (Amnesty International, 2012). This action was received with great distress by some of Twitters users, but was responded to by Twitter by specifying that this new policy actually opposed less censorship. Instead of censoring a tweet all around the world, it would just censor it in the specific country in which violated the laws. This new policy was created by Twitter to keep its company running in certain countries with censorship laws. Even Twitter, if used the wrong way can trigger dangerous effects in societies. Although Twitter could potentially create disturbances in countries, or even dangerous situations, according to Schifer and Porto, one thing is to instigate violence through the mediums and another is to express a personal political opinion that may or may not create acts of violence. True democratic governments should not censor the opinion but rather censor the acts of violence. For instance, people are expressing their opinion against corruption. A democracy would censor any citizen that actively portrays a danger to society by acting against the laws, such as, murdering the respective members of a corrupt government. Nevertheless, the opinion that corrupt governments are in fact a dictatorship, for example, should not be censored. Further on, Twitter, as a corporation, which users present 57% inclination towards democracy should not under any circumstances compromise the rights of freedom of speech. Much less, facilitate censoring in certain countries with abusive governments. Any government or institution which censors opposing views is violating a human right. Therefore, Twitter incorporation violates the rights of its users when it prohibits them to post certain tweets in specific countries.Governments need the voice of its people to function correctly. Democratic governments hear the voice of its of people. Abusive governments, in contrast, abuse the rights of its people and produce a threat to democracy itself. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as Schifer and Porto would point out, specifies the strong relation between the democratic system and freedom of expression. This strong relation comes hand in hand with the fact that any violation of a human right is an antidemocratic statement and is in fact an abusive one. Freedom of speech is a human right. As such, it should be respected and guarded by institutions. Any violation of freedom of speech from regulations to policies is a violation of human rights. Twitter, a primordially democratic media with bases in justice and freedom, should not facilitate nor accept any kind of censoring. Governments with democratic ideals should not censor Twitter nor prohibit its distribution, because in fact, more than violating their faade of democracy they are violating freedom of speech. For every tweet there are 140 characters, and these 140 characters have represented throughout the world, from Egypt to Venezuela, a form of expression. They have represented freedom of speech. Twitter, a social media that has contributed to regime change in repressive places (Amnesty International 2012) has been censored throughout the world. Governments are censoring twitter on the account of revolutions and in the fear of its rapid development and democratic nature. A common conception is that censoring twitter on the account of its revolutions is in fact a violation of freedom of speech, but this as previously stated could be argued. Nevertheless, twitters censorship is a violation of freedom of speech because abusive governments are not censoring the revolution. They are afraid of the revolution. What they are censoring is the democratic ideals and the access its citizens have to information and expression. In Venezuela specifically, they are even censoring a social class. These violations from censoring pictures on Twitter to deleting Twitter accounts or prohibiting tweets in certain countries, are in fact a violation of freedom of speech, a violation of a human right.

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