Course:LIBR559A/Jeong, S. (2016)

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Jeong, S. (2016). The history of Twitter’s rules. Motherboard.

Purpose of article

To chronicle the development of Twitter’s rules and its complicated relationship with free speech and privacy.

Main Argument(s) and supporting evidence

Jeong chronicles the evolving rules of Twitter and its complicated relationship with the practicalities of running a business, satisfying its user base, advocating free speech, and contending with legislation. She documents how Twitter began as an “anti-censorship” platform from which sprang a “user safety first” medium. Jeong looks at the social forces behind Twitter’s rule changes and how the technology succumbed to public awareness and backlash. The ideology of freedom idealized in speech has been slowly chipped away by the reality of socially constructed rules.

Method(s) (e.g., case studies, interviews, thought piece, survey

Thought-provoking. The article consists of background material and analysis.

Areas / Topics / Keywords

Social Media, Twitter, Privacy Rules, Free Speech, Anti-censorship.

Author(s)’(s) understanding/definitions of key concepts

Social Media, in particular Twitter, has morphed from an anti-censorship, free speech platform to a censored medium prioritizing the safety of its users.

Theoretical frameworks followed by the author(s)

The author implies the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) framework because she examines the social forces behind technological change.

Novel ideas introduced by this article

By documenting the social forces behind the Twitter rule changes, Jeong implicitly challenges technological determinism, its outlook, and way of understanding technology that is entrenched in Western ideology. In the West technological innovation is perceived to follow a linear advancement, encompassing small incremental successes, and that technology can solve any problem because the best solution is always objectively chosen.

Pitfalls, blind spots, and weaknesses of this article

Jeong appears to lament the loss of Twitter’s subversive tactics of free-speech within the normative framework. Yet there are several normative frameworks in our society that need to be included, and she doesn’t offer practical solutions to the ideological debates that, at times, pit freedom against privacy.

Potential Contribution to the scholarship of Social Studies of Library and Information and to the practice of Librarianship

Jeong’s article highlights the social forces that constrain the use of technologies. The scholarship and practice of information professionals need to take into account the messiness of human dynamics as it applies to the profession and to technology. Jeong’s article is a reminder that norms are socially constructed and that they derive from pre-existing frameworks that have developed from somewhere, not born from our foreheads, like Athena from Zeus. The information profession and its scholarship construct meaning through knowledge, reasoning, and collaboration, and it utilizes technology to perform its core function. Seeing technology and its dynamic development outside the lens of scientific reasoning may help professionals in the field to expose problems which are first perceived as purely technical to be inherently social.

Page Author: Vivian McCollor