Relief after concerns of Twitter censorship

The conflict on Monday morning between the Israeli Defence Force and a pro-Palestinian, Turkish flotilla not only left substantial questions upon this Turkish group and the Israeli military, but also a question looming over Twitter.

At approximately 11am GMT on Monday, the highly trending hashtag #flotilla suddenly dropped off the list of trending topics, and initial fears of some censorship of the hashtagged tweets spread around Internet.

The primary call to arms came after an article published in the UK’s Guardian finally made a definitive call for concern over the blocked access to the #flotilla Tweets. In later updates to the article and in a response from Twitter’s VP of Communications, Sean Garrett, it has now been made clear that Twitter did not try to block the hashtagged Tweets concerning the violence here.

It seems a recent  WWII anniversary event in the UK  drew many Tweets used the hashtag #flotilla, so the Twitter spam filter deemed the new rise of this specific hashtag to be a flow of Twitter spam flooding the net. Supposedly, the computers then automatically cut it off, but as Twitter was alerted to the issue, they promptly reinstated the previously blocked Tweets, and now there is no issue with any of the hashtagged updates concerning the event.

While it is a great relief to be reassured that, at least for now, Twitter seems to be an unbiased center for the information flow of Tweets, there are still questions about if this can happen again. Most people consider the word “flotilla” to be a fairly unused word, so the idea of it being hashtagged for two different trending topics within a short time frame was especially surprising to Twitter. It is easy to foresee this set of errors repeat itself in the future through an overlap of more common words in a hashtag.

At Herdict, we don’t restrict you to a narrow expression of internet inaccessibility. If a whole site is inaccessible, or if only a Tweet with a certain hashtag does not seem to be getting through, let us know! You can spread the word by reporting at Herdict.org, and help contribute to an even better real-time picture of internet access world wide.

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About the Author: Alex Fayette

Alex is a Junior at Yale University who is currently an intern with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society @ Harvard Law School. His focus this summer is with Herdict.org and also with other Berkman projects falling under the Freedom of Expression umbrella. He is majoring in Economics and Physics, and loves singing and aviation on the side.

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