Twitter has censor to selectively block tweets

Jennifer Collins Jan 27, 2012

Stacey Vanek Smith: Twitter is aflutter this morning. The social networking site has just announced that it has developed a censor which will allow it to block certain tweets depending on location — like if a tweet violates laws in a certain country.

Jennifer Collins joins me now to talk tweets. Good morning, Jennifer.

Jennifer Collins: Good morning Stacey.

Smith: Jennifer why is Twitter doing this?

Collins: So Twitter wants to increase its reach. The company makes money off of ads, and of course more valuable when they’re seen by more people. It has a 100,000,000 active users.

And Porter Bibb of MediaTech Capital Partners says it’s looking for more where a lot of companies are looking right now: China.

Porter Bibb: If they ever figure out a business model for twitter which allows them to make money, the Chinese market is going to be vitally important to them.

But Twitter’s been banned in China since 2009. This move is not going to throw open the gates, but it might crack open the door a little.

Smith: But wouldn’t it compromise the freedoms of the internet?

Collins: Yes, but lots of companies do that to some extent. Richard Holway of Tech Market View says, for Twitter, it may be a necessary evil.

Richard Holway: If for example you’re going to have Twitter operating in North korea or various other countries — then either you’re going to have twitter complying with the local regulations or you’re going to find the whole of your services is completely cut off in those areas.

So the problem is: Twitter is now facing a bit of a backlash. Of course folks are talking about this, where else, but on Twitter. Ai Weiwei, the Chinese political dissident said: if Twitter starts censoring, then I will stop tweeting.

Smith: Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins. Thank you, Jennifer.

Collins: You’re welcome.

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