Twitter Announces Plan to Block Certain Tweets

5 Feb

Twitter announced that it will block some tweets.  If a tweet contains content that is illegal in a certain country, that country’s government can request that the offending tweet be blocked.  Twitter will then block the tweet, but only in the country where the content is illegal.  Users in that country will see a gray box that says that a tweet was removed.  Users in other countries will still be able to view the tweet.


Members of the Twitter community were not happy with this change, and compared Twitter to the governments of China, Syria, Iran, and others known for censoring online interactions.  Twitter played an integral role in the “Arab Spring,” this spring’s recent upheaval in the Middle East that resulted in the ouster of President Hosni Mubarek.  Protesters were able to use Twitter to organize, even while cellular communications were shut down in Egypt.  Twitter users are concerned that censorship of tweets could limit the possibility of protesters organizing in this way.


Ultimately, Twitter’s plan to block tweets with illegal content is the best way for Twitter to remain viable as a business and still serve its users.  If Twitter did not adopt this new policy, governments in unstable areas might block the site entirely.  Now, the government might be satisfied with removing tweets promoting unrest instead of preventing all access to the site.  While content can be taken down, some of the removed tweets will be put on, a website run by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  The planned removal of tweets may not even prevent all users in a given country from viewing a tweet.  Twitter users can manually set their location, potentially allowing them to get around the censorship.


Managers need to be aware of laws regarding speech in the countries in which they have a presence.  Because tweets with illegal content may be blocked, companies could end up with an unsuccessful Twitter campaign.  A blocked tweet could lead to missed opportunities in terms of publicity and public awareness, which could quickly translate into a loss of revenue.  Since Twitter and other social media outlets are widely used by corporations as a means of reaching consumers, corporations must be diligent in keeping up with any regulations that influence online interactions.

by Ben Lederman


The importance of Twitter in the Arab Spring:


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