Four Twitter accounts critical of French President Nicolas Sarkozy were suspended yesterday, just a week after the many started his own account to help with his re-election efforts. The accounts, satirical in nature based upon their Tweets, were allegedly reported by Sarkozy or someone acting on his authority according to Kaboul.fr who operated @_nicolassarkozy who contacted Twitter about the incident.
There’s only two possibilities here. Either Sarkozy or his team contacted Twitter about the accounts and had them removed for impersonation violations, or someone else contacted Twitter pretending to be acting on Sarkozy’s behalf. Either way, Sarkozy only has one option: he must ask Twitter to reverse their decision. If he doesn’t, he should leave Twitter and consider abandoning his re-election efforts.
This is 2012. It’s the internet. Criticism flows like water through the tubes and in a cynical world desperate for resolutions the water flowing is more pronounced against politicians. Any politician who cannot handle criticism in the form of 140-characters or less should look for another career. Any politician who fights the voice of the people by forced censorship of the internet,the most powerful information tool in the history of mankind, should be forced from office immediately.
It’s not an over-reaction to call for the removal of a politician over something so miniscule as having Twitter accounts banned. It sets a precedent of censorship. It establishes that the politician either doesn’t understand the freedoms they are trying to quell or is too selfish to apply the defense of such freedoms when doing so is inconvenient to them and contrary to their cause.
When a basic privilege such as Twitter is attacked from the highest position within a country, that country should immediately and without remorse move to replace that person with someone who is willing to fight for internet access and free speech that does not harm or impede others. Satirical Twitter accounts are annoying and can be misleading, but they exist and should be allowed to continue.
Censorship always starts with an insignificant gesture or as the unintended consequence of an unrelated mandate. The moment that it becomes possible for dissenters to be quieted by the urging of government, that government is taking the first step towards suppression of ideas. Speaking out has never been more possible than it is today and the results have been seen worldwide.
Just as we must fight SOPA/PIPA in the US, so too should the people of France fight this type of political censorship. It wasn’t proposed legislation or judiciary mandate that got those Twitter accounts banned and that fact should terrify the French. As insignificant as those Twitter accounts were, the action that President Sarkozy allegedly took could be a seed that grows into something much more sinister.