Another small act of censorship by our corporate overlords

Two young women both wearing 'NO MORE PAGE 3' t-shirts

No More Page 3 is a campaign against the inclusion of topless photos of young women of page 3 of daily newspaper ‘the Sun’. I’ll admit that I’d never heard of this campaign until their Twitter account, @nomorepage3, was shut down. What did @nomorepage3 tweet that led to the suspension? Was it really bad enough for this act of censorship to be warranted? There’s no way to find out, and those tweets have hidden and thus removed from our collective memory.

Twitter screen-capture that says: 'Everyone: please contact @support to complain about @nomorepage3 account being suspended.'

A screen-capture of twitter.com with the message: 'Account suspecded. The profile you were trying to view has been suspended. To return to your home timeline click here.'

I have the greatest respect for people who take the time to contact Twitter’s @support about this, but I’m not going to join in. I find myself wondering, why do we have to ask Twitter nicely if we can please communicate online? Why do we have to plead with them to recognise that a feminist campaign against a newspaper’s day-to-day portrayal of women as objects is not offensive – why does Twitter INC get to decide that?

We can’t know for certain why @nomorepage3’s account was suspended, but I think I can make an educated guess: News Corporation solicitors contacted Twitter’s legal department, complaining that @nomorepage3 had infringed on their rights in some way (perhaps copyright infringement or libel) and threatened a lawsuit. When a large company makes a threat like this it doesn’t actually matter to Twitter whether the complaint is real or not – just going to court in a case like this would be hugely expensive. In order to avoid such a lawsuit, Twitter suspends the account first, and investigates second. This is how we end up in a situation where threats of violence against feminist bloggers on Twitter are so common that it’s seen almost as a rite of passage, and are ignored by Twitter’s moderators, yet even very mild criticisms of corporations often result in account suspensions.

Account suspensions like this remind us that although Twitter would like us to think of it as being an open space for communication, Twitter is actually a private commercial space, like a shop. Like H&M, for example. Back in February some intrepid FAC activists visited H&M to protest against the shop’s use of ridiculously photoshopped models (helpful suggestion to H&M photo-retouchers: no-one’s waist is narrower than their head).

Activists at Debenhams protesting against images super-thin photoshopped women

The activists managed to carry out their protest for about fifteen minutes before being chased out of the shop. They were chased out because shops are private, corporate-owned spaces, and the company can decide who is allowed in and what behaviours are acceptable. By contrast, if they had held the protest outside they would have been able to stay as long as they wanted.

The fact that so much of our online socializing has been colonized by control-freakish corporations is worrying, but nevertheless there are some rays of hope on the horizon. A new generation of open protocols for social networking that will make it impossible for some corporation to decide at a whim to delete your posts, tweets, pins, rants, and memes. Some early examples of this new generation of social networking sites are Identi.ca, Buddycloud, Friendica and Diaspora. These sites in my opinion aren’t quite ready for prime time yet, but they are developing fast, and I am genuinely excited to think about the free, open social networking services that might be available to us in six months or a year. And of course some online services, such as WordPress and Dreamwidth, have always been free and open.

The No More Page 3 petition is here: Petition: Dominic Mohan take the bare boobs out of the sun

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2 Comments on “Another small act of censorship by our corporate overlords”

  1. RomseyGirl says:

    Thanks for this article KM – it’s kind of interesting to look at what things it’s considered OK or not OK to censor. A few months ago a child abuse charity was struggling to get twitter accounts blocked that encouraged child sexual abuse – http://www.change.org/petitions/twitter-ban-accounts-that-encourage-the-sexual-abuse-of-children From what I remember, twitter’s response was along the lines of “yes, very sad, but nothing we can do, freedom of speech, sorry.” Then suddenly when some rich guy’s copyright gets infringed, they magically acquire the ability to block accounts! Amazing.


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