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'Just a matter of time' before Twitter is in China, company's co-founder says amid censorship debate

March 16, 2010 | 11:51 am

Twitter will be made available to Chinese citizens in the future, the company's co-founder, Jack Dorsey, said in a recent interview.

Speaking at the Paley Center for Media in New York on Monday, Dorsey said in response to a question from Chinese activist Ai Weiwei that "it's just a matter of time" before Twitter is made available in China. Dorsey mentioned, however, that legal concerns currently stand in the company's way of delivering the service to Chinese citizens.Twitter_logo_outline

Overcoming those legal hurdles could be difficult for the social network. China is notoriously closed off from the rest of the world.

Ai Weiwei pointed out at the event on Monday that there is a "Great Firewall of China" that blocks citizens from accessing content outside the country. He said that social networking is "like water and air, but in China, we can't even talk about it."

Currently, Chinese citizens don't have access to Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. The sites, among several others, were blocked through the government's use of Web censorship laws that are typically enforced when citizens use Web services to speak out against the country.

But China's censorship doesn't end at social networks. The government is currently waging a battle of words with Google over censorship of the Web giant's search engine.

When Google entered China in 2006, it agreed to censor search results for the sake of capitalizing on the highly lucrative market. It was a controversial decision that earned the company a black eye from Web activists.

But in recent months, Google has shifted its strategy, saying that it refuses to continue to self-censor search results. It's a stand, that, according to Google, was born out of the company's growing concern over China's "limit [of] free speech on the Web."

For its part, China has yet to budge from its position. The country's spokespeople say that Google must adhere to China's censorship laws. In turn, Google, which is currently the country's second largest search engine behind China-based Baidu, has said that it will withdraw from China if the country doesn't change its stance.

So far, nothing has changed. Google's search results are still censored in China and the Web giant has yet to withdraw from the country. But it's becoming increasingly likely that the company will take the drastic route, even after Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that his company is in "active negotiations" with China.

It's unlikely that Google's eventual decision will cause China to loosen its censorship laws anytime soon. It's equally unlikely that Web companies will budge from their stance on freedom.

The result is a standstill where the Chinese government ostensibly believes the Internet is a threat, and critics believe China's regulations limit freedom. Neither side is willing to accept the opposing position. And as the groups become increasingly entrenched, the divide between them only grows larger.

--Don Reisinger

twitter.com/donreisinger

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