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Twitter, the Self-Appointed Defender of Our Free Speech

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In an apology — “we should not and cannot be in the business of proactively monitoring and flagging content, no matter who the user is”  – Macgillivray was careful to emphasize Twitter’s self-appointed role as a campaigner for free speech.

Twitter in China: #FreeSpeechFail?

Twitter’s freedom of expression halo is burnished by its being currently banned in China. Twitter was blocked there in 2009, after the company made it possible for information about the July 2009 Ürümqi riots to spread without government censorship.

China’s largest information portal, Sina, runs a Twitter-like service, Weibo, that is massively popular in China but also carefully scrubbed by censors lest politically sensitive topics — the escape of dissident Chen Guangcheng from house arrest, for example — be discussed. As Vivian Ni noted on China Briefing earlier this year, it’s almost inevitable that Twitter will seek to regain entry into China to boost its global revenue.

Macgillivray claims there is a “church-state divide” between users’ tweets and the fact that it’s a company that needs to turn a profit. Should Twitter seek to return to China, it could find that principle endangered: would the Chinese government demand that tweets tagged with the name of dissident artist Ai WeiWei be blocked?

One thing’s for sure.  Before Twitter, a “tweet” was an onomatopoeic word for bird sounds and part of the name of a big-headed yellow cartoon character. Thanks to Twitter, we now hear the likes of the New York Times intoning that “tweets belong to the user.” Who would have thought it was possible for so many people (judges, government officials, communist governments) to make such a big deal about a mere 140 characters?


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Photo by Paul Papadimitriou

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12:23PM PDT on Oct 9, 2012

twitter unfortunately has too many problems that get in the way of it being the most viable social network site to use for activism.

1st, the character limits make it virtually impossible to go into detail on certain topics where the limit does not at all give you enough room to explain yourself.

2nd, the follow limits also make it virtually impossible to reach out to your target demographic like you would on facebook which it is much easier to do this on.


fix these issues or at least make them a little less impairing and then we'll talk about twitter being the better social network for activism.

6:19AM PDT on Sep 21, 2012

unless you are being mean?

9:30AM PDT on Sep 15, 2012

Thank you for sharing!

8:53AM PDT on Sep 15, 2012

thank you

6:45AM PDT on Sep 15, 2012

Perhaps, but I do wonder if this will lead to an overload of opinions resulting in loss of mass attention.

10:24PM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

When it comes to social networking, I started out with MySpace. I liked it because I could keep in touch with my friends, made a few new ones along the way, and the user could completely customize the look of their page with just a little knowledge of HTML code. Facebook accounts pretty much all look the same from person to person. Unfortunately, MySpace kinda fell by the wayside, and while I still have the account, I must admit that I rarely check it anymore as there's rarely anything new in there. The only reason I ever got a Facebook account in the first place was in order to support my favourite gymnast who was aspiring to become a singer after she retired from gymnastics. And while things have changed for her (she was signed on to a minor label and put out an album, which I have and still like; but has since decided to pursue other interests after she discovered that a music career would consume as much of her time as her gymnastics career did), I'm still her fan regardless. And, as other of my friends signed on to FB, I now use that site more often than I care to admit. D) As for Twitter, I don't have an account. And I really don't want one. It's not that I have anything against Twitter per se, I just don't see the personal need for another social networking site (or "time suck" as one friend puts it) to deal with. Does Twitter have it's uses? Yes. I simply don't have a personal use for it.

9:08PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012 twitter or facebook.

7:16AM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

Well, I live in the dark ages. Care2 is the only forum I have joined. No Facebook, no twitter - nada. Most of the time my cell phone is off as I prefer to receive my messages at home. Quite honestly, I believe that for the most part "social media" works to the detriment of developing one's "social" skills - as in "old fashioned" conversation. Whatever happened to let's go out for a cup of coffee and a good chat? Hence, I also believe that ipads, iphones and whatever else is glued to your head should be banned in cafes, public transport and the like. I find it all most irritating. blah blah blah

12:19AM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

least twitter is trying to defend FS good on them. Big Brother seeks to further control.

11:01PM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

Thanks for sharing

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