As social media platforms have become increasingly recognized as key sources of news and information, that too has lead to more governments around the world looking to exert a level of control over social apps, in order to counter social movements.
Earlier this year, Twitter faced restrictions in India over its refusal to remove certain content identified by the Indian Government as being inflammatory in its ongoing dispute with local farmers. And now, Russian authorities have moved to slow Twitter’s operating speed, and have threatened to block the platform entirely, if the company does not comply with Government orders on content restriction.
As reported by Reuters:
“The move, which escalates a growing stand-off between Moscow and U.S. social media firms, comes weeks after Russian authorities accused Twitter and others of failing to delete posts it said illegally urged children to take part in anti-Kremlin protests.”
As noted, the action is the latest in a growing trend of authoritarian regimes looking to control speech on social platforms by forcing the removal of certain posts. That puts the platforms themselves in an increasingly tough position – either they comply with Government orders, and limit free speech on their apps, or they stand firm and risk full bans, which eliminates said speech either way.
That puts the leadership of these apps into political positions, which is not what they had ever intended, or had ever designed their apps for. But there’s no denying the influence of social media platforms in this respect, and part of the modern operating landscape is now navigating such concerns, and meeting relevant compromises in order to cater to both sides of each debate.
But that’s becoming increasingly hard to do – as with the Indian Government order, where Twitter stood firm, questioning the legality of the ruling and reiterating its commitment to free speech, that immediately puts the platform in opposition to those who can make the call as to whether they’re able to operate at all in each region.
The Indian Government has already banned TikTok due to its disputes with the Chinese Government, so it’s shown that it will take action, and cut off app access to more than a billion potential users. Russian authorities, too, have cut off social apps in the past, and have even experimented with cutting off internet access entirely, as a means to control information access.
That turns a moral dilemma into an operational one, and while the platforms should stand on their principles, running the risk of restriction could lead to significant business impacts for the platform.
Worth noting that Twitter recently unveiled its plans to add 123 million more users within the next three years.
The move underlines the rising emphasis on social networks as a means of communication, and puts the spotlight once again on the parameters of free speech, and how the platforms continue to manage such. Even in the US, debate is rising around where social networks need to draw the line, and these latest actions further highlight the need for more uniform guidance and approach, where possible, to ensure community expectation, and informational needs, are upheld.