29 January 2012

#TwitterCensored - back on Al Jazeera

 I've been fairly quiet on the media front lately, but the nice people at Al Jazeera English TV decided to get me back last week to discuss the news that Twitter has announced it now has the capability to delete tweets on a country by country basis.

 In fact, it dedicated an entire edition of its show, Inside Story, to a discussion of this issue.  I was in great company, up against Egyptian blogger and human rights activist, Wael Abbas and Computer Active Editor, Tom Royal.

The debate centred around whether this development was a blow for freedom of speech.  I expressed my view that it was just part of Twitter "growing up" and most other major content providers have similar tools.  Tom Royal pointed out that all countries see a filtered internet and explained how these were easily circumvented using VPN tunnels and IP Proxy services.

Wael Abbas, understandably, took a more purist view and expressed his unhappiness at the development.  His concern was that activists would have their ability to communicate through Twitter, in the way that he did during the Arab Spring, curtailed.

We shall see how Twitter use this tool. My prediction is that it will be difficult to get them to remove anything - as it is now - and since removal will be on a country by country basis, there will be less censorship, than would have been the case with the previous system of removing the post altogether.

The experience of recording the programme was interesting as well. I was sitting by myself in the Al Jazeera studios in Knightbridge. Tom Royal was in Westminster and Wael Abbas in Cairo. The host, James Bays, was in Doha. As it was not being filmed live, there was no facility to see the other participants and so I was facing a dark camera and had a bright light shining at me.  Previously when on TV, I have been told not to look at the camera - this time I was asked to look down the lens as much as possible, even when not talking.  You can see from the video, that I did not always succeed - it is probably harder to stare at a camera than it is to ignore it. I also blinked too much.  Anyway, watch and tell me what you think

PS As I was writing this post, up popped this tweet:

 It shows the brilliance of Twitter, how it gives the right of reply to everyone. Now, how to get it deleted...?
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