Twitter will have to deal with China eventually, co-founder says
Along with Facebook and LinkedIn, San Francisco-based Twitter is among a whole slew of social media sites banned in China through a government control system popularly nicknamed the Great Wall.
Stone, at the CTIA Wireless show in Orlando, Fla., said Thursday that Twitter plans to be around for decades to come and will therefore have to engage with China at some point. For now, the company has been looking at ways to operate in China while not compromising its core dedication to free discourse and communication. Several homegrown micro-blogs patterned after Twitter have already become popular in China.
"Our philosophy is that open exchange of information can have a positive global impact, and that's not China's philosophy," Stone said during a CTIA keynote session Thursday.
The value of Twitter, Facebook and social media sites in general as a tool of both revolution and government oppression has been a hot topic since 2009, when protests rocked Iran following its disputed presidential election. Protesters embraced Twitter as a medium to deliver real-time, on-the-street news in a practical and fast way, especially after the Iranian government moved to silence dissent.
In the past months, Twitter has resurfaced as a hot topic as protesters turned to the Internet to organize rallies and disseminate information during the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East which have toppled or threatened rulers in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and other nations.
While Stone argued Thursday that tweeting does not equal activism and Twitter did not cause the revolutions in the Middle East, he did acknowledge that the social media site can be a tool for organizing.
Which means that when and if Twitter chooses to engage with China for a shot at its 1-billion-plus population, it should be an interesting duel to see. Previous American tech companies have run into some sticky problems while operating in China. Google recently announced that the Chinese government was disrupting service and blocking features of Gmail within China; the government shot back Tuesday and dismissed the allegations as "an unacceptable accusation."
Photo: A Twitter-like microblog account, which has already become popular, in Beijing on March 9. Credit: Goh Chai Hin / AFP/Getty Images.