The Government Could Potentially Take Control Of Twitter

    September 2, 2009

You know how I love a good conspiracy theory, so try this one on for size.

  1. Millions of people decide they don’t like the way the US government is handling a major issue–healthcare for example–they start protesting.
  2. They use social networks to voice their concerns, Twitter almost buckles under the strain of the conversations.
  3. A group of very vocal–and sophisticated–protestors start using Twitter to put together a group of hackers willing to coordinate a DDoS attack on a prominent web site–how about
  4. Before they can unleash their “protest” the President takes control of Twitter and shuts down one of the most important communication channels of our time.
  5. Twitter is deemed to be of national importance and so becomes government owned and sanitized nationalized.

Pure fiction, right?


The pieces of the above puzzle are already coming together and, while the events above are extreme, they could actually happen–thanks to the unhealthy fascination of all things Twitter by the US Government.

First, we have speculation that the White House put pressure on Twitter during the Iran elections.

Next, we have government backed groups positioning Twitter as a prime communications channel in an emergency:

The Safe America Foundation, a national safety group working with the U.S. government, announced yesterday that text messaging, social networking sites, and Twitter could help families stay in touch in the wake of a disaster.

And lastly, the proposed Cybersecurity Act of 2009 which would give the US President* unprecedented and ambiguous control of the internet in the event of a cyber-emergency:

A proposed Senate bill would give President Obama emergency control of the Internet, potentially allowing him to shut down all online traffic by seizing private networks in the event of a “cyber-emergency.”

But nowhere in the bill is “cyber-emergency” defined, leaving many cyber security experts worried that this legislation could destroy certain industrial and civil liberties.

If I were Twitter, I’d hurry up and figure out how to make some real revenue–and do it fast! All the while Twitter grows its importance, without revenues, it risks becoming a ubiquitous service such as email. A service without revenues is arguably more likely to be “governmentalized” than one that’s a viable business entity.

Think about it. Google is massively important to, well, everyone. Yet, can you ever see the US government getting its grubby little hands on it? Not likely! Google earns billions of dollars a year and would fight the move every step of the way. Now look at Twitter. It has no business model, no revenues, yet is of extreme importance. It would make it a much easier target for government ownership.

If I were Twitter, I’d be very concerned about the growing perception of its national importance–it’s growing at a much faster clip than its revenues!

* For those of you who make it this far, note that this could all happen regardless of whether the President favors blue or red. :-)