140 Characters – Censored

Twitter censors content from certain countries.  They creatively call this “country withheld content.” So, if you’re from China and want to post a dissenting tweet, Twitter will delete it and post something like this:

withheld-content-520x462

This started in 2012, so I am admittedly a little behind the times (I blame my dissertation).

I bring this up because my students love to claim that Twitter is more free and more fair than other forms of social media. They like to point out something is more “pure” about expressing themselves in 140 characters.

And, while there may be something direct about this compression of expression, this censorship raises questions about the future of social media in protest movements. Is it so far-fetched to think that the Department of Homeland security could decide to target a domestic terror group and censor their tweets?

Online Violence against Women

It’s crazy coming back from a Conference on College Composition and Communication and trying to readjust to the real world.  While at C’s, I had the privilege of working at the Feminist Workshop and meeting with women at the Women and Working Conditions Special Interest Group. Women from all over the country in a variety of academic positions shared their experiences.

With all of this positivity, I was shocked when I read the news about Ashley Judd’s experience on Twitter. The story begins when, like any other American caught up in March Madness, she tweeted a comment about the success of University of Kentucky’s basketball team. Her tweet was immediately met with a vile and violent response.  She was threatened with rape, called every nasty name in the book, and reduced to a sexual object. Like women calling out other games for sexism in gamergate, Judd became the target of sexual threats.

Judd published a response to the hate in this article entitled, “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass.” Judd does a great job of cutting through the crap and getting to the heart of the issue – misogyny. She was targeted with sexual threats because she’s a woman.

Some of her detractors claim this is an issue of free speech and that she part of the idea police. However, I wonder if this is a free speech issue. If someone said, “I’m going to rape you” in the real world, the police could take the threat seriously. I think she’s right to question whether a digital space permits any language.  At the same time, I am loathe to infringe on anyone’s right to free speech. Surely there’s a balance?