The folks behind the curtain at Twitter made a startling announcement via blog post Friday: The popular microblogging service can now block tweets that run afoul of the law on a country-by-country basis.
Censorship! The four-letter dirty word of the Internet! (Actually, it’ll take up 10 of your 140 characters, if you’re keeping count.)
The twitterati was in an uproar. They planned a #TwitterBlackout for Saturday that appeared – based on my completely unscientific first glance, at least – to have absolutely no effect on traffic over there.
Hey, considering users post a billion tweets every four days, you don’t really miss a few here or there.
… And that’s exactly how tweeters got it wrong.
See, Twitter’s “new” policy isn’t new at all, but nobody missed those few tweets here or there until the policy was in the spotlight.
The site routinely removes tweets that break foreign law – the blog post uses the example of pro-Nazi content banned in France and Germany – but until now, Twitter has done so on a global basis. Now the tweets can be removed from users in one country while still being viewable elsewhere. And should you find yourself in an affected country, Twitter has made no secret of an easy workaround.
Another non-change: Twitter’s policy on when it removes tweets. Tweets are removed reactively, not filtered. That means it takes a while. And that means future social media-fueled uprisings – a la #ArabSpring and #OccupyWallStreet – can carry on uninhibited. (Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing isn’t my call to make.)
The not-new “new” policy on removing tweets is not likely to affect Twitter’s popularity on a global scale. Did I mention the billion tweets every four days?
The site reports its user base numbers some 100 million, with 50 million logging in daily. It’s going to take more than a one-day blackout to make a dent in that.