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What Does Twitter’s New Censoring Ability Mean To You?

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Like many social networks, Twitter is a very powerful platform for connecting people. While some of us might use it for nothing more than complaining about coworkers or sharing pictures of our lunch, others are using Twitter to take down governments and stop poorly-worded bills from becoming laws.

Yesterday, Twitter announced that it has refined the technology enough to censor tweets in specific areas of the world.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. We all have this knee-jerk reaction to instantly hate anything that even questions our freedom of speech concepts, but before you get mad at Twitter, think about what this could mean for us as content creators and social media users.

Misplaced Anger

I think it’s important to start by understanding that Twitter isn’t going to just start wiping out your tweets willy-nilly. What they’re talking about is being able to block tweets on a country-by-country basis in order to comply with that country’s laws. Currently, Twitter already does censor some tweets that break United States laws – in most cases, that boils down to removing tweets that contain links to child pornography sites.

Some countries have very strict laws about what you can and cannot say publicly. Freedom of speech is not a world-wide civil liberty, unfortunately. Twitter isn’t creating these laws; governments are. I think public anger is a bit misplaced. We should be angry that governments are censoring their people, not angry that Twitter is abiding by these laws.

Some Access is Better than No Access

I won’t argue that censorship is a good thing, but I will argue that Twitter’s new ability to censor on a country-by-country basis is a good thing. Let’s use China as an example, since this is a country where Twitter is currently blocked. If Twitter wants to provide access in China, the company has two options:

  • Censor everything any user from any country says to meet China’s policies.
  • Censor some tweets in China to adhere to policies while leaving these tweets untouched in other parts of the world.

The second option is much better! Could you imagine if everything we said on Twitter was censored by the Chinese government? The third choice, of course, is to simple continue denying access to China so that no one’s tweets were censored to any follower, but I think some access is better than none at all. Even if my followers in China only were able to reader one out of every hundred tweets, that’s better than the situation now. I’d love to connect to new people, even if it was in a very small way.

Now, Twitter is unlikely to actually pursue Chinese operations at the moment, given the country’s fiasco with Google a few years ago, but this is just an extreme example of how it could work in countries with different laws. And a launch in China is certainly not out of the question.

A Commitment to Human Rights

One could argue that Twitter should not censor tweets at all, that they should simply refuse to provide services in any country with strict laws that don’t provide for freedom of speech. I argue that this approach is cutting off the nose to spite the face.

First of all, I don’t think any company that provides non-essential services is going to change the mind of a government power that restricts Internet use. Government in North Korea, for example, has shown the world that it can and will isolate its people. They don’t really given a you-know-what if their people have access to Twitter or not. So by refusing to enter these countries, Twitter isn’t really doing any good in my opinion.

Second, I believe it is important to support the people of a country. They don’t always agree with government policies. Heck, I don’t always agree with my government policies (who does?), but that doesn’t mean moving to another country is a better choice – and some people don’t have this option.

Third, this isn’t always a matter of black and white. For example, I think we can all agree here that spreading links to child pornography should not be protected under “freedom of speech,” and I’m glad Twitter removes those tweets. But from there, you can slope down to lesser and lesser “evils.” Where is the line drawn? Just because something is allowed by law in the United States doesn’t mean that other governments and cultures should have to conform to our standards. For example, pornography is illegal in many countries. Should Twitter boycott these countries the same as they boycott a country that censors tweets with negative opinions about the government?

Censorship for Positive Change?

Many major online companies, including Google, already censor their content in other countries to abide by laws, so this is nothing new. Twitter is just being extremely transparent about things, which I think is commendable. They plan to release information about who and where tweet censorship is being requested.

That could actually be a really positive thing for change in the world. It brings freedom issues to the forefront in people’s minds, both in the country being censored and in countries where people have more liberty to say whatever they want. So, censorship is bad…but Twitter’s move into countries where this is an issue could be good for raising awareness.

Not Without Problems

The concept of semi-censoring tweets is not without its problems.

Will Twitter simply listen to what a government official says, or will it allow tweets that aren’t breaking the law, even if a take-down is ordered? For example, what if the U.S. government decided to censor all the SOPA tweets earlier this month? Those tweets should be protected under the constitution, but if a take-down was ordered, would Twitter simply comply? Given the fast-paced nature of Twitter, the amount of time it would take for a tweeter to challenge something like that would make it a moot point. If tweets about SOPA were reinstated after the bill became a law, for example, it wouldn’t really matter.

And I also worry about misinformation. When someone is only seeing part of the story, ideas and facts can get dangerously warped very quickly. If someone is only see some of my tweets, they might form a very wrong opinion of me. Worse, it allows a government to have a lot of control on the message. If 99% of tweets about your leader are positive, is it because 99% of people actually like this person or because almost all negative tweets were caught and removed by censorship filters.

Thinking About Our Content Differently

I think, as content creators, we should be excited about Twitter’s plans to expand into new countries, even if tweets will be censored. It means new followers, new connections, and new readers/viewers. However, it does mean that we have to think about our content a little differently.

With Twitter’s new ability to censor tweets in specific countries, our messages aren’t going to be seen in the same way by every follower. If you want to reach this new audience, it’s important to make sure that you’re tweeting in a way that allows your messages to be seen, and that might require a little research to learn about laws in other countries.

Let’s Keep Our Eyes on Things

This new power for Twitter does not come without responsibility. Whether we realize it or not, censorship on Twitter has already been happening, but now that it is easier to wipe out tweets in specific countries, I think all of us users need to band together and just…well…keep an eye on things. It’s now much easier for a government – even the United States government – for for Twitter itself to abuse these powers. It’s up to us to ask questions and keep those in charge accountable for the decisions they make.

Here are a few more posts with information and opinions on this topic, which I’ve quickly collected with the help of one of my favorite plugins of all time, Zemanta. Weigh in with your opinion or a link to your post about the topic by leaving comment below.

70+ Brilliant Bloggers Talk About #BWELA 2011

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BlogWorld

What a whirl-wind weekend it was in Los Angeles, right? BlogWorld Expo is my favorite time of year, since I get to see old friends, make new ones, and get educated! Brilliant Bloggers is a weekly series we do here on the BlogWorld blog to create resource pages about specific new media topics – but for this special edition, I wanted to collect as many posts as I could find about the event. Good, bad, or ugly, we want to know what you thought!

Definitely check out the entire Brilliant Bloggers series and consider coming back to submit posts for upcoming editions. We’d love to feature some of our speakers and attendees! Also, if I missed you post about BWELA 2011, PLEASE leave it in a comment below. The more round-ups we have to read, the better!

Brilliant Bloggers Talk About BWELA 2011:

Updated 11/12/2011: Even MORE Posts about BWELA 2011:

BONUS: Some Brilliant Tweets from BWELA 2011:

  • “One of the best messages of #bwela today went far beyond social media. @MariSmith: before doing anything, ask “What is my deepest intent?”” – from Aviva Mohilner (@avivamo)
  • “Wow. There are more people in this Google+ keynote than there are on Google+.” – from Jordan Cooper (@notaproblog)
  • “Google+ is to facebook what Macintosh is to Windows. DEEP THOUGHTS from @guykawasaki” – from Ellen Gerstein (@elleinthecity)
  • “New media vs traditional media is the new “To be or not to be”” – from Jorge Aguayo C. (@JorgeAguayoC)
  • “You need longevity in your thinking, think about what you’re doing with your audience over time.” – from Inside FMM (@InsideFMM)
  • “The hardest step: Lose everything that doesn’t relate to what you want to show. We think everything about us is important; it’s not.” – from Tiffany Monhollon (@tmonhollon)
  • “I really like the idea of an internal content library (via @Britopian)…we need to focus more on internal engagement & edu” – from Lauren Vargas (@vargasl)
  • “Best tip so far is from @soniasimone : Write down 3 take aways to implement right away in your biz from each session.” – from Heather C. Stephens (@StephensHeather)
  • “Jim Farley is speaking #BWELA. He is the CMO of @Ford. If you want to see a company that does it right in #SocialMedia – It’s Ford. Period.” – from Jeffrey Powers (@geekazine)
  • “Thanks to @kirstenwright ‘s #BWELA presentation I am looking at my @YouTube insight with a keener eye” – from Miss Lori (@misslori)
  • “The one thing I keep thinking abt since #bwela – Social media is to advert what reality TV was to sitcoms. Game changer & rooted in truth.” – from Callan Green (@CallanPaola)
  • “Focus was my #1 takeaway from #BWELA” – from Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan)

Thank you SO MUCH, everyone, for all your awesome posts and tweets! If I missed yours, please leave a comment with the link so we can all enjoy it and I’ll be happy to add it to the list! Didn’t write about BWELA? Share a comment to tell us about the best tips you learned at the event!

Want More Twitter Followers? Pay For Them!

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usocial We’re living in a world where the more people you’re connected to on the internet, the more successful you are most likely going to be when it comes to your business enterprises.  The problem for a lot of people, however, is that they just aren’t connected to that many people, and getting more of those connections can be a real pain.

Take Twitter, for example, the way it works is that you follow people’s Tweets that you are interested in, and in return, other people can follow you if they are also interested in you.  The more followers you have, the more people instantly hear exactly what you’re doing, exactly when you’re doing it.  For businesses, or someone who’s trying to market themselves or a product, the ability to reach a ton of people can be priceless…or is there a price?

Looks like there just might be, and we just caught wind of a new service called uSocial that actually offers up packages to help you boost your followers.  Yes, you heard me right, they have a service that helps you suck in and capture huge increases in Twitter followers so that more people are hearing from you, about you, and what you’re trying to market.  To this, I have just one word in response:  Wow.

I am not saying it’s not a great idea, because it really, really is, but I’m just saying Wow.  It seems amazing to me that we’re reaching points where we have to pay for followers.  What’s next, paying for Facebook friends?  The whole idea of a social network, to me, is that you’re socially building your network with people you know and interact with on some level.  Granted on Twitter we’re not always following people we know, and sometimes we even follow celebrities that interest us but still, paying for a package to include more followers just seems, well, odd.  The day we pay for Facebook friends, is the day I drop out of social networking altogether!

Tweets From Space: Astronaut Twitters

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massimino-thumbnail If the White House jumping on the bandwagon and signing themselves up for a Twitter account wasn’t enough to convince you that the micro-blogging service had officially gone mainstream and its popularity has blown up, maybe today’s little gem of news will.  How about this:  a NASA astronaut part of their latest, ongoing mission not only used Twitter during his entire training program, he is going to be Tweeting from Space.  Yes, Space.

Astronaut Mike Massimino has been updating his Twitter page over the last few weeks and his most recent post was a precursor for the exciting events that are about to come as he and his fellow NASA astronauts attempt to fix and repair the Hubble Telescope.  His last pre-Space tweet read:  “I’m going to put my spacesuit on, next stop: Earth Orbit!!”  Everyone following his adventure is waiting anxiously to receive his first Tweet from Space.

It is amazing to see just how far technology has come, and how exciting it is to see where it goes next.  To think that only a decade ago, mobile phones were just starting to gain in popularity and Twitter and Social Networking in general had yet to even be developed.  Fast forward to today and we’re able to keep in contact with friends, customers, clients, and yes, even astronauts, all from our phones and computers.

Who would have thought that 140 characters could be so huge.  Next stop:  Tweets from the Moon.  “That’s One Small Tweet for a Man, One Giant Twitter for Mankind.”  Right?

Twitter Becoming Huge Conduit For Information

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twitter-bird From Twitter’s humble start as a way for you and all of your friends to update each other on what’s going on, where you are, what you’re thinking and what you’re doing, it’s hard to believe where things have currently landed.  A year ago, would you have believed that some of the most popular celebrities in America would be not only using Twitter, but championing it and spreading a huge amount of their news on the service?

Would you have believed, only a year ago, that some of the most major and popular news stories were literally broken on Twitter?  No.  Probably not.  The bottom line is, over the last year, Twitter has shifted from a small, personal place to update your own social networking statuses, to a full blown hotspot and conduit for information.  Twitter has rapidly become THE place to go for any and all things information…from breaking news, to the actual pulse of this world, it’s hard to argue against it.  Everyone from Shaq to Oprah to the FBI to President Twitters, so when you want or need information that’s absolutely up to the minute, why would you go anywhere else?

According to an article we just found, Twitter:

“…isn’t just about celebrities or the silly anymore. It’s about real information, in real time…Sometimes that can be tweeters telling people about a shooting in their town, or about who was arrested overnight and is now in the county jail. Or letting residents know about severe weather headed their way.“Twitter is a scanner. It’s a scanner of life, scanner of the country,” said Jen Reeves, an expert in new media and a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.”

We couldn’t agree more.  Fast forward 10 years from today and the need for major newspapers or even yes, the News, might be completely gone.  Why listen to a reporter’s second-hand report of a situation when you could hear directly from the people that were there and actually witnessed what happened?  The time is coming…the time is now.

Why Do Celebrities Twitter?

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Twitter is huge.  You know it, I know it, heck even our grandparents probably know it.  With the recent news that even the Queen of England was Twittering, I think it’s fairly safe to say that the technology has officially come into its own.  The bottom line is, Twittering is huge and it’s getting even more huge as more and more celebrities are adopting the technology and Tweeting like crazy.  The question is, why?

In only 140 characters we are all being offered a much more intimate, much more in-depth and much more real look into the lives of these people that before only existed on screen or over the radio.  Now we know when they get massages, how they feel after losing a big game, what they think about politics, fast food, religion, and their love lives.

Why are celebrities doing this?  Simple, it’s fast, it’s easy, it’s social, it’s new media, and it lets their fans get closer than ever, without requiring a great deal of PR work, search engine optimization or even effort.  Anyone can send out a Tweet and if you’re MC Hammer, Shaq, Jimmy Fallon or Lance Armstrong each one of those tweets will be recieved by and followed by anywhere from a few thousand, to a few Hundred thousand people.  Instantly.

More insight?  The simple fact that Forbes is picking up on it and reporting on it should say quite a bit.  Head over and check out the article they did about why celebrities are turning away from old static websites and directly onto new social media and Twitter.  It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s intimate, what more can they ask for?

Do you Twitter?  Do you Follow celebrities on Twitter?  If so, who, and why?  We’d love to hear just who You find interesting, and whose Tweets you can’t live without.

Twitter? Even The Queen Does It!

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The fact that Twitter has officially “made it” is no longer a secret to, well, anyone.  In this day and age of blogging, micro-blogging, status updates and yes, Tweeting, everyone has a Twitter and the sheer number of new accounts every single day is staggering.  Want to know what Shaq is up to?  Follow him on Twitter.  Jimmy Fallon’s thoughts on his first week of hosting Late Night?  Simple, follow him on Twitter.

The bottom line is, everything, and I do mean Everything is moving online, and it turns out, even the Royal Family is jumping on board.  Reports of the Queen, yes, The Queen, sending emails to her family, sending Christmas messages via YouTube, to now using Twitter to send live-updates and Tweets to anyone that cares to follow her.  According to reports:

“…the Queen’s Observance of Commonwealth, which is scheduled to be held this Monday in Westminster Abbey, will feature live on the blogging site Twitter, and the officials will send “tweets” about the progress of this annual grand event. “

So, we’ve got YouTube, Website, Email, a Royal Podcast and now Twittering?!  Welcome to the present, your Majesty, we’re happy to have you.

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