Since last US election, I am seeing lots of concerning news related to twitter, About Twitter’s policies at various occasions, reactions on various Govt’s policies, All in name of “Freedom of Expression” (selective Freedom of expressions!)
Below are few headlines, read before we start,
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says Twitter denied him access to his account
Twitter ‘permanently suspends’ Trump’s account
The Indian government’s war with Twitter
India accuses Twitter of not complying with new IT rules
So, what is the fuss about? Why am i writing this? And How sovereignty hijacking came here? Lets me explain.
Most of us already aware of what twitter is, Obviously! People share (Broadcast) their views, news, ideas, And of course a marketing reach/research (Yes, all twitter users are profiled) tool for corporates. Few users have that blue tick, huge numbers of trolls and countless bots. Anything trending on twitter helps in building and shaping “A Narrative”, that’s Great, isn’t it? So, where is the issue?
Twitter is just a public traded company (TWTR share price was ~$63 on closing of 27th Aug 2021) providing a digital platform. Twitter brings down comments, followers, trends, block the users whenever its policies are breached from this platform. Twitter operates in many countries, and all these countries have their own “rule of land”. And Things start getting complicated here.
What if country’s rule is broken but not twitter’s? What if twitter’s rule is broken But not the countries? What if Govt’s minister’s official account breaks twitter’s rule? Who will decide if rule is broken at all? And top of all, Who has rights to punish the rule breakers?
Lets take a example, Donald trump was a President of United states when his twitter account was blocked permanently by twitter. Isn’t US president elected by people of US? If president’s conduct is wrong, Who holds him accountable. is it some public traded company? or Judicial system of US, Or parliamentarian proceedings, Or top of above, people of US? Counter view would be, Twitter provided the account (And thus letting him use the platform) and if Twitter feels it can block him, or tag his tweets as false. My argument would be then, But he is not a mere local politician with some extreme views? If you have power to block a democratically elected head of the govt and the state on your platform, then you are too power than the states itself, But wait a min, You are again not a constitutional body to do so, You are a platform provider company whose share prices goes up and down daily and have investors/stake holders in the profits.
Another example, Indian IT minister’s account was blocked for some time. Twitter gave some lame excuse. IT minister questioning twitter (Basically, pleading to them) for reason of the action. It got restored after some time. Twitter proves on this occasion too, it is stronger than a sitting IT minister of India. Twitter hesitant to abide by the policies of Indian govt which regulates it. Court has to intervene to make twitter “fall in line”. There are many such occasions where Twitter proves themselves stronger than a democratically governing political system and thus undermining/challenging the power and duties of a sovereignty.
Now, We got the answers to the earlier asked questions.
So, set of new questions now, What are the consequences of such behaviors of public companies? Will country run over the wishes of public companies? Same time, never underestimate the power of building and shaping “The Narrative” abilities of Twitter.
Consequences, A greater risk for stability of the systems, be it governmental, sociopolitical economical etc. This can easily turn into anarchy, disorders and complete chaos. We have seen how elections were interfered. We elect the government to run our daily affairs, ease out our lives, But what if someone undermines the rights, duties, And power of the government itself. This is threatening, Isn’t it!.
Let me clarify one more thing here, I am not against public digital companies doing with some amazing business ideas. So, how to respond to this situation? My view is, Monopoly is absolute disaster And Twitter is enjoying the monopoly right now in this space. There is no equilibrium. A private company mends its way only when it has competition. Govt, People, Ecosystem should encourage and entertain other similar platforms exist in this space.
If governments at all want to use such digital platforms, they should have their own. Yes, This could turn into another propaganda platform of the govt, But it is secure,safe and sovereign than others. I feel pity when parliamentary committees summons to twitter and Twitter has courage for not to appear. As a citizen i would never like to see my president’s voice is on mercy of private company. What you say! Share your thoughts too…