Here are some recent headlines about Twitter, culled from the technology site slashdot:
- Twitter follows Facebook down the walled garden path
- ‘Horrific’ Twitter Abuse Facing Clampdown
- Twitter Can’t Keep Protestor’s Data From Cops
- Student Expelled From Indiana High School For Tweeting Profanity
- Twitter Can Now Block Tweets In Specific Countries
- Thai Gov’t Welcomes Twitter’s Censorship Plans
What strikes me most about this collection of stories is how difficult it is to run a journalistic enterprise. Twitter, like any company, is fundamentally in the business of making money for its employees and stockholders, but I’m sure the Twitter brain trust believe they have a somewhat higher calling. Twitter is justifiably proud of its role in the Arab Spring and other revolts against oppression, but the dividing line is often a blurry and uncertain one. Do you let Thailand censor tweets in exchange for allowing the Thai people to use Twitter? Do you give a user’s tweets—all of them—to the US government just because it asks for them? After all, the courts have ruled that Twitter users have no expectation of privacy, thus there is nothing to keep secret. Not all questions have a right or wrong answer.
Twenty-three centuries ago, Ecclesiastes wrote “There is nothing new under the sun” and “There is a time for war, and a time for peace.” If Ecclesiastes were alive today, he’d probably nod and say it again. The technology has changed, but the human condition has not. The challenge is how we use our double-edged technology.