Flix Friday, January 16, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute Editorial| Bangalore| August 20, 2014| 4.00 pm IST Twitter has decided to 'remove images of deceased people in certain circumstances' on the micro-messaging site if immediate families or other authorized individuals make such a request. But there’s a caveat – it confers on itself discretionary powers to decide which pictures must be told and which withheld thereby opening up a hornet’s nest that speak to unfinished debates and discussions.  The trigger for this decision seems to be the posting of the alleged dead body of Hollywood actor Robin Williams who committed suicide earlier this month and the ensuing controversy which turned ugly as it was also anonymous.  Twitter says it will consider public interest factors such as the newsworthiness of the content while reviewing such removal requests and may not be able to honor every request. There are two immediate issues that must be addressed and a third one which is more business-driven and to which Twitter is not unwise.  The difference between of public interest and in public interest is not just a preposition. It is the subject of scrutiny for many reasons but more acute since Princess Diana was killed in a road accident as her car was being chased by paparazzi in Paris.  While it may have been of interest to readers to know if the late Princess was engaged or pregnant or married, it was not in public interest. Rather, it served business interests as each photograph of the lady was sold for thousands of dollars.  In public interest is an entirely different issue. It is in public interest to know what a government has done to secure the safety of its citizens, especially women, but it is not in public interest to show women hanging themselves from a tree after being raped as was the case after the Badaun rapes. It is in public interest to know action that has been taken to keep people informed about Ebola and it is of public interest to know what happens to people who are dying of the disease, bleeding to death.  Finally, what can twitter do if people post pictures of beheadings by the ISIS, or that of someone run over by a train or car? If it works to rule, the families of these people have to ask that disturbing pictures be deleted and then hope that their requests are met. How is that even possible when twitter has made almost everyone on it – especially in India – as ambulance chaser? So if a picture of a dead body in Badaun, Syria, Palestine, Iraq or Israel is posted, family and authorized people may be blissfully unaware of the gory pictures doing the rounds. What happens then? The anonymity that the site offers to people is one reason why people are emboldened to say things and post pictures they would otherwise not do. The name for them is cowardice, not courage. We at The News Minute think twitter has bitten off more than it can chew.
Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.