Twitter, Schmitter, and Turkey

“Twitter, mwitter,” so said Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to thousands of supporters at a rally in Istanbul last week where he vowed to close down social platforms. As reported by Reuters…further: “We will wipe out all of these,” Erdogan said. “The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is.”

“Twitter, mwitter,” by the way, means “Twitter, schmitter”…more or less….

Twitter responded to the shutdown by creating an SMS work-around (see my piece on India) and the EU responded by being “gravely concerned.”

And clearly the Prime Minister is playing into the hands of the insidious digibabblists who seem to have convinced him that by shutting down digital-sharing platforms, the corruption scandal threatening his party in advance of the elections will go away….

The good news is that, as coined by Time, “the oldest technology of all…the hearts and minds” of the people can never be shut down, turned off or otherwise fully suppressed or blacked out, and the pictures from Turkey of protesters turning out in the streets proves the point…yet again.

And frankly my deepest concern is that when it becomes clear that technology is only an enabler, the next target will be the people…as we have seen before all over the world.

However, what I find additionally troubling is the case being made by the government and its supporters, and I think we all need to step back a bit and pay attention.

Bottom line – while we watch in concern as civil liberties are being limited, the government argument is that they have had to act against Twitter “after complaints were made by citizens that it was breaching privacy.

Basically the argument is that Twitter had ignored previous requests to remove content. “Because there was no other choice, access to Twitter was blocked in line with court decisions to avoid the possible future victimization of citizens.”

And there you have it…my seriously deep concern…the double-edged sword….

One side says freedom of speech; the other says not if it invades privacy and hurts others.

So we are clear – I am not supporting the Turkish shutdown…my readers know better…but I have always railed against irresponsible posting and the lack of accountability for what we share.

And the problem is that, as we see in Turkey, the analysis of what is and isn’t is in the eye of the beholder, and if the beholder has their finger on the switch…the outages begin and Twitter goes dark.

We need to protect the global right to share. We need to make sure that protesting corruption and scandal doesn’t become a flashpoint for privacy restrictions closing down our ability to object, dissent and disapprove on social media.

Yet we also have to make sure that when we do use these channels in the normal course of our lives, we do so with accountability….

Which is why I am concerned that there is a return to anonymous postings trending – check this out…a bad precedent in my view…

The good news is that we can always take to the streets; the bad news is that shutting down people is way more drastic than turning off Twitter and way more tragic….

The double-edged sword…listen:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Evelyn Beatrice Hall (often misattributed to Voltaire…thank you DK)

When both sides use the same argument, it’s not clear whom we are killing ourselves for….

What do you think?

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