Twitter launches new campaign for press freedom and local journalists

It’s interesting. Twitter until today launched a new campaign to support local journalistss as part of World Press Freedom Day, which includes full-page ads in various newspapers promoting Twitter lists of journalists to follow, as well as new educational programs and funding to support open media coverage .

As explained by Twitter:

As journalists continue to report selflessly from the front lines of conflict, in the face of hostile interests, and, particularly over the past year, risk their personal health to cover a global pandemic, we believe there is is essential that they and their industry are supported.”

Which is particularly interesting right now, as Twitter continues to face demands from the Indian government to curb anti-government sentiment, as well as other regimes pushing for more control over social media platforms. and what is published by their citizens.

Twitter, in many cases, has been forced to comply with such rulings. So while the platform may push for press freedom, there is a pretty strong conflict in this approach.

Either way, Twitter seeks, at least outwardly, to defend press freedom.

The main element, as noted, is a new full-page ad campaign running in 28 local newspapers across the United States to promote its #FollowLocalJournalists initiative.

As you can see here, the ads invite people to scan the QR code at the bottom, which links to Twitter lists of local journalists, created by each newspaper and the Twitter team. This gives people a more direct way to stay in touch with the latest news from these correspondents, with the real-time nature of Twitter providing a faster way to stay up to date with the latest news and announcements.

Which is a big use of Twitter – but again there’s a question about Twitter’s ability to defend press freedom outside of the United States that’s regularly questioned – probably even more so now in the wake of the Trump presidency.

The view is that former President Trump’s use of Twitter highlighted just how influential Twitter can be, which has since seen many other world leaders seek to influence, if not control, tweets in the world. as part of their efforts to maintain power and control in their respective regions.

Some of these censorship requests make sense. In India, for example, in various instances, the Indian government has sought to limit misinformation around COVID-19. But in many other cases, the government has also sought to eliminate criticism of its handling of the pandemic, including deleting tweets from local journalists and suspending their accounts.

Twitter says it removed these tweets in accordance with local laws, which in effect give the Indian government the ability to effectively implement censorship. While in Turkey, Twitter was forced to comply with Turkish authorities regarding the control of speech via tweets, with local Twitter officials being appointed to enact new content removal laws.

So while Twitter promotes one thing, in the United States in particular, there are metrics regarding its ability to support press freedom in different regions.

Which leads to the next element of the new campaign – in addition to its newspaper ads, Twitter is also running a global campaign for #FollowLocalJournalists.

“We encourage everyone – national journalists, journalism advocacy organizations and passionate everyday news consumers – to share impactful examples of local journalism and to elevate the journalists who have contributed to it. The goal is to highlight the work of these journalists and increase their audience.”

As long as they’re not, you know, banned by Twitter via government decree.

Twitter has also hosted Twitter Spaces events around the world, where users can hear directly from journalists about issues facing their industry, including events in the Philippines, Myanmar, India, Japan and Brazil.

And finally, Twitter will also be provide training andAds for good’ grants to various non-profit organizations that support journalists around the world.

Overall, it’s good to see Twitter looking to directly amplify journalists – and this move, in some ways, also aligns with the platform’s new push into newsletters and facilitates a more direct connection between journalists and their audiences, which could also help support ongoing press freedom.

But as noted, there are conflicts within that as well.

It is one thing to defend freedom of the press, and quite another to oppose it to corporate commercial interests and the need to comply with local restrictions on this subject, in order to meet the stated requirements.

Given that, it’s a promotion that’s a little uneasy and a bit more PR-like than Twitter would have expected.

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