Media and communication

Flattr IX: A freedom fighter as well as a censor?

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Bauman (2007) explains that our culture suppresses alternative ways of living in capitalist society by portraying the obligation to choose goods as a freedom to choose. Individual freedom is actually very limited in a capitalist culture, but it is hidden by the individual believing he or she has choices in his or her personal pursuit of happiness. We can then ask whether Flattr is such a fictional idea of freedom, while it is not difficult to see how Flattr through their communication exemplified in blog excerpts in previous posts, challenges the big players in the market economy. The media companies whose business model is to keep the digital content locked and charge for opening it up, clearly do not want it to be freely available to all and that the user only pays if he wants.

The new Twitter terms, Facebooks dominance or Apples arbitrary Appstore rules might not be a threat to Flattrs existence, but it is for sure a threat to the openness of the internet. The all-powerful are playing a game we don’t like.

(Olsson 2012)

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Olsson (2012) challenges in the blog post above, major Internet actors such as Twitter, Facebook and Apple, as he depicts their rules as a threat to Internet freedom. He writes that it is a game Flattr does not like and suggest that they instead represent the opposite, namely freedom online. Meanwhile Flattr itself has a censorship for what may appear on the network’s list of content. In the ‘FAQ’ with guidance on how to use the service, a long way down the page it reads:

My thing has been ”force hidden” why?

There could be several reasons, the most probable one is that it contains content that we don’t want to show on flattr.com e.g. not suitable for children. The button still works just like any other but the thing won’t be found on any listings on our site. We do this in order to protect our users.

(Flattr 2012)

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While Olsson (2012) on Flattr’s very visable blog criticize other Internet actors as restricting user rights, they themselves have a control of the content of its members, which could be seen as a contradiction to the network’s values. Flattr (2012) say they want to protect their users, which may seem to go against the hacker culture’s freedom of thought which must imply freedom of expression and dissidence (Castells 2001). The text is not entirely clear to what is included in the things they do not want to show on flattr.com, and possibly thus it is located near the bottom of a facts page which may not have many members come across so often and therefore do not take part of. Just as with Couchsurfing, we find a contradiction in how the network conveys a kind of idea, and how they act after opposing values. In Flattr’s case, about how they provide a picture of the network as a champion of online freedom, while they themselves are willing to censor content.

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