Robert Hampton

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28th January 2012

Where the Tweets Have No Name

Ironically, the latest victim of a Twitter mob is… Twitter itself.

On Thursday the microblogging site announced a new policy on deleting or withholding Tweets. A lot of users have interpreted this as censorship and have gone so far as to call for a Twitter blackout in protest.

I’m all for a good Twitter mob wielding virtual pitchforks, #flamingtorches and 140-character protest chants. But in this case the mob is wrong – here’s why:

  1. The new policy is almost exactly the same as the previous one. Twitter has always responded to legitimate demands to remove illegal content, such as DMCA takedown notices against tweets linking to pirated content. The main difference now is that content can be removed on a country-by-country basis rather than censored worldwide.
  2. Oppressive governments will block Twitter anyway. During the height of the Egyptian protests last year, the internet was effectively turned off in that country. During the disputed 2009 election in Iran, the government blocked access to Twitter and other social networking sites, forcing users there to find ways round the block. In China, Twitter is blocked entirely. Is a censored Twitter worse than no Twitter at all?
  3. Twitter is being open and accountable about their policy: affected users will be informed when a Tweet has been “censored”, and Twitter has teamed up with Chilling Effects to list all takedown notices it receives, so users can see for themselves what is being censored.

Mashable has a good post about Twitter’s announcement and why the new policy could actually be good for activists in the long run.

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