Buzzfeed is at it again today. First it decided to pick sides in a presidential election, and now it has noticed that other countries, often Muslim, don’t have the same sensibilities as Americans. And this is a big problem for social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
Buzzfeed’s Katie Notopoulos noted, “The proliferation of internet-connected mobile phones, in theory, is bringing the world together — with people continents apart talking and sharing, fueled by the sweet nectar of social apps. But in some cases, those connections turn into collisions. Within just the last three weeks, three big American social media platforms — Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter — have all butted up against the laws and cultural norms of local populations outside the United States.”
Good points, although somewhat obvious. The 3 examples she gave, Iranian women posting selfies on Instagram, Indian comedian Tanmay Bhat morphing some photos on Snapchat for humor and a bunch of Twitter accounts deactivated for making fun of Putin aren’t really the worst of it.
What’s worst is that social media companies and Google are giving into censorship demands. Just last week, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Microsoft agreed to a “Hate Speech” ban which for all intense and purposes bans normal free speech if it bashes principals of Shariah law, according to some critics. It’s well known that Saudi Prince Alwaleed, a believer in Shariah law which makes women and gay people second class citizens owns 5% of Twitter. Should we be concerned?
Of course there are cultural differences and those differences stand in direct contrast to American values of free speech, freedom to associate, equal rights and religious freedom. In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to drive, must cover their face in public, cannot generally mix with men and can’t vote at any level. They are second class citizens. In many countries people are not allowed to criticize the government or government leaders. Should U.S. Internet companies go along with this? Are we in effect helping governments keep their populations from rising up for freedom? These are tough questions but perhaps its time that the United States enacted laws of its own requiring U.S. based companies not to compromise the principals of freedom with social media and search engines. They might ban their use in certain countries, but so what?
Conservative provocateur Breitbart London produced a video to get the word out about what it calls the EU’s “Orwellian” new online censorship deal:
Some of the comments in the Buzzfeed article seem to get that the story is not just the obvious butting heads of different cultures:
They should continue exposing the faults in society’s moral/cultural/legal systems. Censorship is a tool that is used to maintain a system that benefits a sector of society at the expense of others. The refusal to expose and discus issues allows problems in society to pile up, it creates inefficiencies and imbalances in society.
I feel so sorry for the people who live there, mainly the women and gays… at least before YouTube & social media, they weren’t really aware of how good people have it living outside of the country. How horrid & confusing it must be to see other women driving cars, with concern only for gas prices?
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