Twitter Actions Receive Seesaw Reactions

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Twitter announced changes in its privacy policies, which immediately raised concerns for freedom activists in addition to writers and reporters in other lands, who feel their ability to share stories, some that may be seen as ‘controversial’ by respective governments and authority figures, will be limited.  The reaction comes at a sensitive time for most who want to maintain online freedoms, only a week after the wake of the recent SOPA/PIPA debacles.

To compound the concern, Google recently announced a shift in its brand’s privacy policies as well.  Google, in an attempt to consolidate 70policies, will leverage its range of online products to custom-tailor each individual’s search experience.  While many browsers celebrate a customized Web experience, some are concerned regarding Google’s decision to make the personalization a non-negotiable issue.

The Twitter brand, known for its real-time services, was quick to react to online concerns regarding its own decision.  Advocates of the shift in policies point attention to some ‘advantages,’ Twitter’s ability to showcase “revoked” tweets in other countries, for one.  Before the change in policy, Twitter would remove tweets indefinitely; now, revoked tweets can be seen outside their respective countries.  Removal requests, often voiced by companies or governments for copyright and speech laws, will be obeyed, but on a per-country basis.

Perhaps freedom fighters are rushing in too soon.  For one, it seems like limiting the omitted tweets on a per-country basis still allows for widespread awareness.  Secondly, perhaps Twitter knows what it’s doing, understanding the popularity of the social media site across the globe, wanting to ensure its livelihood in as many places as possible.  For instance, the Times article references a study performed on tweets originating from Africa.  South Africa is the continent’s most active area for “tweeting,” with over twice as many as the second-highest active, Kenya, with Nigeria, Egypt, and Morocco being amongst the most active countries.

While tensions related to online freedoms have been high recently, maybe Twitter’s shift in policy is a success for freedom.  The Times article culminates in a positive gesture, pointing attention to the fact that the new policy involves publishing information about where the posting was blocked.  Online browsers and freedom fighters now have more information to spread about information related to “revoked” tweets.

Todd Bailey

Todd Bailey

Founder /Editor at pushStar Digital
Todd Bailey is the Founder/Editor of pushStar Digital. He works as Director of Search for Gen3 Marketing as well.
Todd Bailey
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  • Steve Hill

    The more I think about this “controversy,” the more I keep coming back to the fact that Twitter is a for-profit entity and is well within it’s rights to do anything with it’s users’ tweets. I’m sick of hearing people who expect Facebook, Google, Twitter, or whoever else to not act with their own business interests in mind. For some reason, maybe because these services are free, so popular, or are relatively open communities, people subconsciously believe that social media shouldn’t make money or utilize user data or anything else like that. Did the fact that they are businesses, not charities, get lost somewhere? If you don’t like what a service does, don’t use it!

    • Anthony Pensabene

      Steve, you raise good points. I think Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites, though fully-operational business models, must keep in mind how they have changed how people exchange information. Social influences of this caliber were (very likely) not foreseen or pondered during the orchestration of original business models. I think the sites, especially Twitter, have a huge responsibility to immediate users and the public at large. Never before in time has a nation and the world been able to share such widespread sentiments and informaiton in real time. I understand and respect the sites’ posiitions as businesses but I think we’re seeing the sites’ contributions to the world transcending dollars and cents.. You’re right; the people have a choice to use other services. But, at present, many people enjoy using Twitter and Facebook. If social sites don’t realize their value to users and society as a whole, another CEO or group of people will start something else with more of the interest of consumers and people in mind…

  • Ed Cilurso

    Todd– Great coverage, very valuable. Privacy concerns are really becoming a focal point for us webmasters. It seems there are new policies and everyone is trying to simplify them at the same time…who is next?

  • Jason Wersits

    Excellent article, Todd. The current buzz on the web regrading censorship is one that definitely has everyone’s attention. While revealing the cause of a revoked tweet is certainly not the solution to this web privacy issue, it certainly is a step in the right direction.

  • Bruce Rymshaw

    Good article, Todd. I’ve also been paying close attention to the policy changes recently enacted by Twitter and Google… in fact, for anyone with a Google account, it’s very difficult to ignore as they’ve made a point to stress the changes to their users. I think the changes will continue to make headlines simply due to the controversy they’ve generated. I’m interested in seeing where social and search policies go from here, now that brands like Twitter and Google are seeing their greatest overall success to date.

  • Steve Stankiewicz

    Steve raises a good point that there are cost involved to run the business. There are employees to pay, legal fees, server fees and numerous other things. The social networks do deserve to make their own policies to help sustain the company and grow profits. Everyone is always so worried about privacy policies, you should see what gets crammed into some of these sites TOS pages.

  • Ryan Buddenhagen

    Good points made here. There are so many different facets to this development. First, touching on what Steve and Anthony have been discussing. I feel at the end of the day, yes, these companies (Facebook, Twitter, Google) are for-profit entities and they do (and should) act in their best interest in terms of improving market share and making money, but the landscape they are operating in is largely evolving alongside them. Rules regarding media piracy, privacy, and the like are being applied and challenged in new ways continuously as the internet, and the platforms it makes possible, grow and evolve. As a result, these companies have a responsibility to at least be aware of this and make decisions being mindful of their far-reaching and often precedent-setting implications. On another front, the international impact of the the Twitter changes is substantial. Changing take-down policy to apply on a per country basis allows Twitter users to not be entirely silenced as blocked posts can be seen in other countries. This may change how the service is used though in countries where censorship is high. Regarding potentially censored topics, users may be writing more for an outside audience (where the posts could still be seen) rather than their in-country friends and neighbors. This could give it more of a news functionality rather than it being used to share and connect locally in these places.

  • Candice S

    In a way I think Twitter is trying to prevent possible costly backlash from the concerned countries. Just recently, Google France was fined about $600,000 for providing a their free Google Maps feature. Who is to say that these places won’t follow suit, and try to file something similar to Twitter for disagreeable tweets? Given that Twitter has such a large niche in social media, and society itself, I think they are just trying to cover themselves in the event that they are faced with a conflict that could ultimately result in the dismantling of Twitter. In a sense, this move is beneficial to their users, because Twitter is making the necessary moves to keep its services around for their users, even if it may impact a small percentage of the ‘freedom fighter’ demographic.

  • Awe Par

    I agree with the comments regarding the fact that these sites have every right to create whatever policies they see fit without fear of retribution from users. That’s just it…. if you don’t like it, don’t use it! People are just getting too used to griping about things they don’t like rather than taking control of what it is that upsets them. It’s like someone who doesn’t like a radio program’s content, however, makes sure to listen to it every day so they can get fuel to their fire. My opinion is that from what I understand, Twitter is actually making previously lost Tweets based on censorship policies of certain nations more available, so that seems pretty okay. Unfortunately, some people seem to just need something dramatic to discuss over the water coolers each day, especially exciting when it is “anti”!

  • Sam Smith

    Anthony you make some valid points. I feel that as the company grows they become more of a corporate culture in which shareholders and people financing the business make more of the calls not the guy who initially started the site / biz. You only have so much control until the company gets popular and then you need to re-evaluate your core business model.

  • Liam Kelly

    I think this is just uncharted territory. Companies like Google and Twitter are balancing their own self interest, as Steve stressed above, with not necessarily that of the greater good, but with the interests of individual users’ freedoms. People do have a choice to use other services and this is true, but that is always easier said than done, when alternative services just may not have the same reach or functionality as the ones in question, thus making the decision to switch that much harder. It is clear though Twitter is acting here to make their service viable in challenging markets where censorship is more of an issue at a minimal expense to the user’s freedom in my opinion, as blocked tweets will still be able to be read, just outside your own country.

  • C. Alvarez-Scheets

    As much as many say that this is a suppressing move by Twitter, or a plot for social media to make a profit, I feel this is something that they realize they have to do in order to continue to provide the services they do, and to prevent a situation where they may face any kind of litigation. Just recently, Google France was fined about $600,000 for providing a free maps service, because a competitor was ‘losing business’. What would happen in the event that one of the more strict regions became upset because of some disagreeable tweets about them, and decided to fine, or do something that would disassemble Twitter completely? As much as others say that you can’t audit and censor one’s social interactions and speech, there are many other platforms that do filter content so that they can dodge extreme censorship/blocking due to angry parties, and to keep it running for its users.As Todd was saying, Twitter obviously saw the bigger picture, and kept in mind the interests of its users, by taking actions to sustain all the activities of Twitter, even if it means having to remove the small percentage of disagreeable tweets by a specific demographic.

  • B.T. Shendlebacher

    Every social network has the right to change their policies, just as their users have the right to discontinue using those networks if they disagree with such policies. The polarizing reactions to these policy changes may influence decisions made by Google, Twitter, etc… but it’s also a distinct possibility that said policies are here to stay, regardless of anyone’s reaction.

  • Michael Herkert

    I feel it should be the rights of the business to make their own rules. It’s up to us the consumers to read the small print before we sign. If Twitter or any business wants to set their rules they have the right to. If this causes unhappy customers they will vote by quitting the service. Keeping the web free will allow it to evolve, and those who choose not to will fall by the wayside.

  • Richard Ortiz

    While I do not argue with the fact that these businesses do have to act in the best interest of their company and investors this still does limit freedoms. For one, we have seen in the last year the power of social media to unite people. From the uprisings in Egypt and other countries to the “Occupy” movement in our own country we have seen how social media can quickly gather people of like minds and beliefs and can do it at speeds never seen before. If there is a tweet that is trying to protest an injustice and the country wants it blocked because it could spark a revolution then the people who need to see it most – those in that country who feel the same – will not be reached and will not be able to enact change the way it has been done in the last year.

  • astuces

    Excellent article, Todd. The current buzz on the web regrading censorship is one that definitely has everyone’s attention. While revealing the cause of a revoked tweet is certainly not the solution to this web privacy issue, it certainly is a step in the right direction.