Twitter co-founder: Freedom of expression is a human right
Twitter's Biz Stone argued that freedom of expression is a human right in a post on the company's blog Friday, coinciding with Egypt's blackout of the Internet and cellphone service.
"Our goal is to instantly connect people everywhere to what is most meaningful to them. For this to happen, freedom of expression is essential," the company co-founder said in the post, titled The Tweets Must Flow.
On Tuesday, the Egyptian government blocked Twitter and Facebook -- both social media sites being a tool for protesters in Egypt calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
On Friday, Mubarak's government shut down nearly all Internet access in the country and he announced that he was firing his entire cabinet and would introduce some government reforms -- but he also said he's staying in office.
Twitter was also blocked in Tunisia during its four weeks of protest that led to the overthrow of the ruling government there.
Without ever writing the word Egypt, Stone and Twitter were very likely addressing in part the recent unrest there and in other nations.
"Some Tweets may facilitate positive change in a repressed country, some make us laugh, some make us think, some downright anger a vast majority of users," Stone said. "The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact. This is both a practical and ethical belief."
And, on a practical level, he said, the social media website doesn't have the resources to review each of the more than 100 million Tweets delivered on its site every day.
"From an ethical perspective, almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits," Stone said.
Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the most-popular social networking site on the Internet has a similar perspective, in a statement e-mailed to the Technology blog.
"The Internet provides people around the world with the power to connect, to learn, and to share," Noyes said. "A world without the Internet is unimaginable. Although the turmoil in Egypt is a matter for the Egyptian people and their government to resolve, limiting Internet access for millions of people is a matter of concern for the global community. It is essential to communication and to commerce. No one should be denied access to the Internet."
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, gives a speech during the Tijuana Innovate festival in Tijuana, Baja California State, on Oct. 13, 2010. Credit: Francisco Vega/AFP/Getty Images