It is not surprising that governments will try to censor groups in order to maintain power and legitimacy. They will often regulate media to favour their beliefs, limit associations to bound information, and disperse crowds to avoid solidarity. But, recent years have brought a new kind of civil disobedience to the hands of the public. This latest battlefield is able to connect millions of people instantaneously trans nation-state boundaries, and every entering soldier is armed with bullets that come in the form of words.
Twitter is becoming a powerful threat to government because anyone, anywhere can participate anonymously and all voices are on an equal playing field. Even politicians, who are entrusted with excruciating information, can find a way to diffuse facts they feel necessary to defend their indicting consciences. Despite their betrayal, they will regularly have the ability to risk their honorable positions.
This tool's ability to quickly assemble groups from the comfort of one's home is making governments tremble. Technology evolved faster, and they do not have a concrete plan to stop words from getting tweeted. There are approximately 1.2-billion computers, more than 500-million twitter users, and 7-billion people in the world waiting to be mobilized.
Even though their efforts have been futile, regimes all over the world are desperately trying to find a successful solution to censor Twitter. In June 2012, Kuwait sentenced a man to 10 years in prison for endangering state security by insulting Prophet Muhammad and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain through a tweet. However, this conviction did not set an example to the rest of the population as only months later more men committed the same offense. In addition, these events triggered public demonstrations, which was exactly what the government was trying to avoid in the first place.
Vietnam also responded to the social network phenomenon by hiring a network of over 1,000 "public opinion shapers" to engage in online discussions and post comments supporting the Communist Party's policies. Similar to China's model of Internet moderators, their task is to spread the party line. Nevertheless, their plan backfired when their own opinion shapers rebelled and started sharing some opinions of their own, revealing the oppressive measures of the party in power.
Venezuela's government did not have a strategy. It caught them by surprise when in the midst of an ailing controversial president, twitter users knew more about Chavez's health conditions than the ministers themselves. Impulsively, they cracked down, raided the homes, and imprisoned the suspected 'destabilizers.' It isn't quite clear weather they were able to crack down the right IP addresses, but it certainly didn't scare off users, since information leaks through twitter are even more popular in the country now.
Freedom of speech has long been a threat to authority as it has the power to inform, organize, and mobilize citizens. As a result, governments have a history of meticulously restricting the freedom of sharing information either directly or indirectly. However, this new form of peaceful civil disobedience is revealing government's limited ability to oppress freedom of speech.
Today's guns are composed of 140 characters. To what extent can they go to silence the Twitter Terrorists?
Follow Maria Fleming on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Ma_Fleming