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Social media giant Twitter has made the announcement that it will begin to selectively censor content in certain national markets--perhaps including China, where it remains officially blocked. The plans are already running afoul of popular sentiment among Chinese who use the service.
Twitter's new plans have led to a range of comments among Chinese users, all of whom are circumventing China's "Great Firewall" of Internet censorship, which blocks the site entirely. The Chinese-speaking Twitter community, that is, is already effectively taking a stand against censorship just by using the site.
But now, many fear, the site itself might actively begin to censor content, on request by China's Communist regime authorities. Reactions have been swift. Noted Chinese activist Wen Yunchao tweeted a characteristic response with his appeal "Oh no! @twitter says going to start censoring tweets in certain countries. Pls ReTweet!"
Others, such as the recently jailed dissident artist Ai Weiwei, tweeted that "If Twitter starts censoring, I'll stop tweeting."
Yet some doubt whether Twitter's plans will include censorship for the Chinese regime. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the Beijing-based commentator on Chinese investment and Internet development Bill Bishop made the point that Twitter has also committed to publishing "government takedown notices" with the Internet freedom advocacy group Chilling Effects.
Such publication would at minimum deeply irritate China's censorship authorities, which also seek to censor their own censorship notices.
Instead, Bishop suggests, Twitter might really just be focused on differences between markets like France, where Holocaust-denial is a crime, and the US, where it is protected under constitutional law.