Real-Time Frustration Over Twitter's New Policy

Correction Jan. 30, 2012

In this story, we said, "Twitter General Counsel Alexander Macgillivray says there were a lot of factors to consider ... like protecting Twitter employees from retaliation — especially in countries that might raise objections, like China or Saudi Arabia." While Macgillivray did say that protecting Twitter employees from retaliation in countries where it intends to set up shop is a factor, China and Saudi Arabia are not in that category. The company does not have staff or a business practice in either one.

This past week, the social media network Twitter announced it would begin removing messages from its service within specific countries if asked to do so by one of those countries. The move sparked complaints of censorship from some of its users. Host Rachel Martin has more.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


As Facebook moves towards more openness, Twitter is restricting some of its access. The social media site announced last week that it will censor any tweet deemed, quote, objectionable by certain governments. Twitter bills itself as a champion of free expression, and the move caused outrage among many. We reached out to Twitter for comment.

ALEXANDER MACGILLIVRAY: My name is Alexander Macgillivray, and I'm the general counsel of Twitter.

MARTIN: Macgillivray says there were a lot of factors to consider, like protecting Twitter employees from retaliation - especially those who live in countries that might raise objections, like China or Saudi Arabia. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Though Macgillivray said that protecting Twitter employees from retaliation was a factor, Twitter does not have a staff or business practice in either China or Saudi Arabia.]

MACGILLIVRAY: Freedom of expression is really important to us, so we wanted to keep more tweets up in more places, and we wanted to make sure that our users in the world would be able to see whether we're living up to our freedom of expression ideals.

MARTIN: Twitter says it will let users know when a tweet has been withheld by posting a notice, and a link, to, a website that tracks online censorship. But the tweet doesn't disappear. It can still be seen in countries where it hasn't been censored.

Critics say Twitter's move could have a far-reaching effect. Think of an Arab Spring without the galvanizing effect of thousands of tweets from protesters. Twitter's Alexander Macgillivray says that's not a fair criticism.

MACGILLIVRAY: Well, first of all, it overstates Twitter's role in those types of things. The revolutions would have happened with or without Twitter.

MARTIN: Some Twitter users around the world are protesting the company's action with a self-imposed tweeting blackout.

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