There was recently a standoff between the United States government and Twitter. A Twitter handle was posting messages that were critical of the new administration’s immigration policies, and the government issued a summons that ordered the social network to produce the personal information of the holder of the account. Twitter sued to block the action, and the government withdrew their demand.
This is after several accounts have been created to coincide with the new administration. They all claim to be “rogue” government employees who have the inside track. But if governments were allowed to demand social media information, could it have further effects on average citizens? We asked some of our writers, “Should governments be allowed to force social media to divulge personal info on accounts?”
Trevor gives a resounding “no” to this question. He notes, “Once the force is used one time, they will keep asking for more and more.” While it may begin as just for certain circumstances, it could turn into something that is always expected.
Phil explains that the “government is always going to push for more access to private online areas, usually under the guise of security, but when it’s just pandering to the ego of the commander in chief, they will always be in a bit of a sticky wicket.” He believes this sort of thing will become less and less attractive to the government as long as citizens speak up for their rights. He points to the quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
Simon thinks the whole thing sounds scary! He agrees with Phil and believes that they would “use the excuse of protecting people from threats to security as their main motive.” He also sees that it shows they’re just interested in “shutting down people who go against the current government.” While right now social media is a great place to get news and express opinions, if the government obtains this ability, it will lead to “people being shut down for speaking against how the country is run as a whole.”
Corbin thinks this should only be allowed when it comes to a matter of national security. “Even then, the likelihood of affecting national security is not a quantifiable amount which opens the issue to be taken advantage of.”
I have to say I agree with the others on this. I think it would be a very dangerous precedent to set. If you allow it one time, the government is only going to keep on using that newfound power. I, too, think it should only be used if it’s something tantamount to national security or extreme danger, meaning they could stop deaths from happening if they divulge the information. But certainly it shouldn’t be used just to find out who’s being critical of the administration.
Let’s hear from everyone else on this topic. Do you see no good coming from the government gaining this ability? What if they were able to do it in times of national security? Do you worry about your own information getting caught up in this? Should governments be allowed to force social media to divulge personal info on accounts? Join our conversation below, no matter what government you reside in, and let us know how you feel about this.