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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Twitter Beef

By: Damion Boycott


In 1955 the African American residents of Montgomery Alabama organized what is now known as "The Montgomery Bus Boycott". The boycott was staged to contest the citys' policy of racial segregation and discrimination. The boycott, which lasted for more than a year financially crippled the Montgomery public transportation system. Rosa Parks' refusal to relinquish her seat to a white passenger led to The United States Supreme Court decision that declared segregation on public buses unconstitutional.

What occurred in Montgomery in 1955 is an example of how mass boycotts and protests can lead to social and political change. This took place before the invention of the internet, emails, cell phones or text messages- it happened by word of mouth and community meetings.

Now in the new millennium those that have become discontent with the ruling class or the status quo use the current technology to organize boycotts and protests. Such is the case with the so-called Arab Spring that began in December of 2010. Social Media was credited with helping to raise awareness about boycotts, rallies, demonstrations and strikes.

The leadership of Egypt under Hosni Mubarak ordered the shut down of websites hosted in Egypt after protests began, and also made it impossible for Egyptians to use Twitter, Facebook and emails. This was done in an effort to stifle the momentum of the demonstrations.

Now, in the aftermath of uprisings like the Arab Spring, Twitter can now block Tweets in specific countries and make those same tweets available for view in other countries. Twitter said it made the change to comply with the policies of some countries. In Communist China the service is blocked from every Chinese citizen all together.

Could this happen in the United States? If America continues to creep towards what seems like a Totalitarian State, it very well could. Some say the limiting of Twitter is a free speech violation. If this sort of internet blocking happens in The U.S. it will be a clear violation of The First Amendment right to free speech. Perhaps we need to get back to the 1955 tactic of spreading information by word of mouth and community based meetings. At some point we may have no choice.

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