Guest Post: Censoring Twitter

Today’s post is from Guest Blogger Christine Kane, a graduate of Communication and Journalism. She enjoys writing about a wide-variety of subjects focused on communication for different blogs. She can be reached via email at:  More info at:

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On January 26, 2012, Twitter announced that it acquired the capability to censor content on a country-by-country basis. That’s quite a transformation from the exposed and entirely unfiltered history of the site. But what does this modification mean to the company as a whole? To the Tweeters? How will it affect us?

First of all, why did Twitter take this unexpected and radical step? Venturing that the stepalluded to a succeeding Twitter presence in China, PandoDaily wrote, “I’m sure Mao would be pleased.” Censorship in China has been anextensive and fiercely debated topic, and it appears that Twitter is preemptively acceding to the countries suspected demands.

The Guardian, in the interim, inquired if the new censoring ability could be used in the U.K. to block tweets revealing information covered by local laws regarding celebrities. What disturbance that could have on the gossip columnists and celebrity new shawks there can only be imagined.

Dreading extensive and automated use of the new technology, Marketing Land spoke with Twitter employees who confirmed that censorship will only occur on a case by case basis and that no programmed online filters will be generated.

But what could happen if Twitter’s censorship went automated? What could be censored? Private data like names and addresses? Celebrities and politicians privacy concerns? Swearing and sexual advances? If Twitter’s censorship does happen, it will obliterate Twitter as we know it. But is it right to have Twitter censor-free in one country and chopped up in another? How will that work? Will some countries be detached from the rest, language barriers aside? Or will users simply compose their own language, a secret code, which would be problematic for the censors to unearth? Only time will tell.

The Wall Street Journal conjectures that the option to censor Twitter was made in a move to defend any future international development efforts where the company would have to follow local law or take a chance of having its employees thrown in jail. This is simply a politically correct way of discussing China and other countries whose idea of Internet freedom does not encompass as much as America’s does. You can understand Twitter wanting to expand into those countries, but at what expense?

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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