ASPEN -- Twitter has played a celebrated role in the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa this year that have come to be known as "the Arab spring." The social network has been one of activists' favorite tools for quickly organizing themselves and raising support for real-world demonstrations.
Even before this year, Twitter had been seen as a catalyst for change in the Middle East. In June of 2009, protests following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran had a notable social media component. One former national security advisor even said Twitter should get a Noble Peace Prize, an idea that Biz Stone mentioned in an article he wrote for The Atlantic's Technology channel.
Indeed, from most appearances, it seems that Twitter has happily assumed the mantle of "liberatory technology." Jack Dorsey, one of Twitter's co-founders who returned to the company as its executive chairman in 2011, even took a State Department-sponsored trip to Baghdad in March of 2009.
So, while many people are covering the "relaunch" of Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Jason Goldman's venture, The Obvious Corporation, I was more interested in Stone's attitude towards international affairs. I was legitimately surprised that Stone sat before a crowd at the Aspen Ideas Festival today and declared that Twitter had to remain a "neutral" technology and cast aspersions on Twitter's long-noted relationship with the State Department.