Adhering to Censorship, Propagating Inequality or Just Good Business?

Yesterday, the Huffington Post piqued my interest. As it often does, it’s filled with a myriad of goodies, and this time, I found an intriguing question.

Is adherence to censorship laws abroad an affront to liberty or simply good business?

Although the question seems to have an obvious answer for the social scientist, ask any MBA and they will probably give a different answer. Touting freedom and democratic ideals seems natural to your average future diplomat, but to the young business leaders of America a deeper understanding of those ideals motivates their actions.

Capitalism. What a beautiful word.

So should Twitter and Facebook adhere to high standards of democracy promotion, or should it look to the bottom line?

Recently, Twitter changed the way that it allows countries to censor tweets. By removing tweets considered inappropriate by the host country (Thailand for example), but not deleting them, they are still available to Twitter users outside of that nation. Suddenly, Twitter is much more attractive to China. Which would allow Twitter to capitalize on the Chinese market of over 500 million users. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo believes that adhering to local laws while maintaining this content allows for more transparency.

The plot only thickens. If Twitter (and most likely Facebook) are willing to follow censorship laws, to what degree will they continue to follow them. China requires users to give up their anonymity by registering with their real names. If Facebook and Twitter choose to follow Chinese policies, will they inherently help the Chinese government track down dissidents?

It will be interesting to see when, how and to what extent, Twitter and Facebook choose to enter the Chinese market and follow censorship laws which govern social media use in the Communist Republic.

Will social media platforms choose to promote freedom of speech or let capitalist ideals rule their company policy?

For the original article, see In Social Media We Trust? in The Huffington Post (15 February 2012)


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