As the internet expands and China becomes the biggest market for users, internet companies are increasingly haveing to shift their ideas about freedom in order to break into these markets, and Twitter is no different. The 140-character social network has announced that they can now “reactively withhold content from users in a specific country”, or in other words – they can now censor Twitter on the demands of specific countries.
They have teamed up with ChillingEffects and will let the censored user know they’ve been censored, as well as making it clear to others that the content has been censored – but this is a serious political issue for the service that had a great impact on sharing information in the recent Arab Springs. Twitter may have given the historical/cultural Nazi-censorship in Germany and France as their example of when this tool may be used, but it will be countries like China where it will see most action.
The question now is, however, whether expansion into these territories is worth putting up with the censorship and effectively ruling yourself out of any future ground-breaking social events. I for one am hugely disappointed by the move, and I am certainly not alone with press freedom group Reporters Without Borders preparing an open letter to Twitter’s CEO with their concerns about the action.
Whilst Twitter is a commercial entity and now having to generate profits to justify its valuation, I can;t help thinking that this would not have happened under the management of the founders – those who pioneered to make this platform of instant and easy global communication work.