Whatever good – or harm – WikiLeaks is doing for U.S. diplomatic security, reputation, and policy is highly debatable. Some companies WikiLeaks relied upon, including Amazon, PayPal, and its DNS service, have decided to not get stuck in the middle of the politics, canceling the accounts WikiLeaks used to conduct business. On Wednesday, Facebook and Twitter joined ranks and also banned accounts associated with supporters of WikiLeaks – primarily, any accounts associated with “Operation Payback,” which was run by the hacker group “Anonymous.”
Initially, Facebook made a statement earlier in the week that they would not ban content unless it clearly violated their polices. While the WikiLeaks fan page has not been removed yet, Facebook has indicated they will not disclose what future action they may take on the account. However, the attacks by “Operation Payback” on Visa and other websites triggered Facebook to ban Operation Payback content. What originally seemed like an indication of Facebook’s policy of open, free-speech now seems to demonstrate that Facebook is willing to ban accounts that utilize free-speech to harm others.
In a more blatant move to censor speech through social media that could cause harm, Twitter has also banned content that mentions “Operation Payback.” Recently, Twiter has notably failed to stream #WikiLeaks in any trending topics list. In a blog post on Wednesday, Twitter explains this is because the trending topics algorithms compare how long Twitter users have been tweeting about a topic to how quickly tweets are occurring about the trend – the longer and less frantic the subject mater, the more it becomes a “topic” and less a “trend.” Like Facebook, Twitter’s initial reaction to #WikiLeaks appeared to indicate a complete lack of censorship over their users. However, Twitter now appears to be exercising some authority over what users share to protect other users from harm – Twitter explicitly banned the accounts associated with “Anonymous” because they were “hateful” and “threatening.”
Are Twitter and Facebook right to censor fans of Wikileaks? Does it really protect us from harmful content? Or do you think social media should still be a place of open, free-speech?