Egyptian Chronicles: Regarding the #TwitterCensored

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Regarding the #TwitterCensored

Yesterday Twitter surprised us with this decision : Twitter will withhold a specific tweet from specific country while keeping it available for the rest of the world !!

The people behind twitter give us the lamest justification ever. I am not convince with that considering the fact of the freedom of speech that the West always preaches us about. I do not get how withholding a specific tweet or specific tweep in one country and keeping it available for the rest of the world is good or great.
Many of the tweeps in the world do not tweet for countries outside their country or from tweeps outside their country. In fact when I imagine this feature or decision or censorship being applied , these examples pump in my head. 
  • Manal El Sharif’s tweets about women to drive with be censored and blocked in Saudi Arabia as well the all the ladies who drive as well because their tweets are dangerous on the social stability in Saudi Arabia. Now in El Sharif’s case I do not care if the whole world reads her tweets , what is important is that her tweets are read by other Saudi women and men !!!
  • The criticism to the king and the virtue committee in Saudi Arabia will be blocked in Saudi Arabia
  • Rasha Azab’s tweets about virginity checks scandal as the Egyptian society is so sensitive to what is related to sex , it will be censored , of course it is worth to mention that if it were not for tweets , nobody would know in Egypt.
  • Human rights crimes committed in Bahrain from time to time will be of course in Bahrain.
  • The crimes of IDF in Palestine will be censored inside Palestine and Israel or even inside the EU or America  because of course this overstretched the anti-Semitic charges 
  • Do I need to speak more about Egypt !? I think you got the whole idea.
I am from Egypt , from that country that led the social network revolution in the Arab Spring , I am from that part of the world that made of twitter something more than a gossip social network , I am from that part of the world that turned twitter in to a new source “despite what I think about being reliability” and I am from that part of the world that will pay a huge price because of this new genius decision !!!
We live in a part of the world those 140 characters can send you in jail because you criticize the royal family in the Gulf for God sake and you want to block tweets in a specific country.
I do not tweet for the world all the time , I tweet for my follow Egyptians most of the time so most of the Arab tweeps do who found in those 140 characters a virtual forum after years of forced silence.
Ironically many Arabs on twitter were happy from couple of days about how twitter will start to localize its UI and thus many Arabs would join twitter but I think it is different now.
Many people from all over the world have decided to boycott Twitter on #Jan28 today , ironically from a year we did not have access to twitter since January 26th , very few tweeps used proxy services and fewer tweeps knew that they could access it through dial up and internet satellite.
Returning back to twitter to on February 1st ,2011 through regular broadband before heading to Tahrir square to join the first million man protest and it was a huge moment as I far I remember it.
Is it the Walid Ibn Talal effect ? Are the world powers governments in the world behind it ?
By the way the Saudi tweeps are so concerned about this matter more than anyone because in a country where everything is filtered , twitter censorship seems to be a gift from San Francisco to many conservatives and the regime.  

Ironically as far as I see people did not boycott Twitter for real as they are continuing to vent their anger in #TwitterCensored and #Twitterblackout
I am extremely angry from twitter administration but I am more angrier from my own self because I have wished one day that this feature would exist to shut someone like Ahmed Zpider after insulting racist tweet about Doaa Sultan when he described her as a slave yet now I regret my wish.


  1. Stupidest thing is that they are not in anyway obliged to censor those under US law (under which Twitter operates!)

    They could have pushed the boundaries by all-or-nothing like they have, and see who blocks whole Twitter who doesn't.

    Another question is, who can block the tweets? I mean who in Government is given these keys. If they keep the persons doing the censoring as a public matter it could actually backfire on censors themselves.

    1. Hi Zeinobia (we have the same name but mine is in Turkish:-). I completely share your concerns with censorship but the current implementation is actually an improvement. The ability to pull tweets was always there but now if they are forced to pull tweets, they will do it only in the country (not globally) and make sure the tweet appears as censored (so that it doesn't just disappear), create a database of all such blocked tweets at, and also let people in the said country reach that tweet simply by changing their "country" to "worldwide" in their twitter settings.

      So, Twitter is not going to be censoring more; they are saying they will censor less and also make a bigger fuss about it if forced to censor. I wrote about it here:

      It's also not true that governments everywhere are getting the keys. They will have to get court orders, get Twitter to pay attention -- and all blocks will happen, so says Twitter, after the fact. So they won't just filter a keyword, the government has to name each tweet individually. If I were a censoring government, I wouldn't be happy with this.

      I think Twitter did a really bad job explaining all this. I'm usually criticizing Internet companies so I felt like I need step up and defend one when they are actually doing it the right way. (As opposed to Blogger which has just been pulling posts quietly and not responding the way they did With Ramy Raouf's post on the "Tahrir Girl".

  2. Read @techsoc blogpost on this. Easily circumvented and not near as bad as it sounded on first blush.

  3. @Zeinobia "The crimes of IDF in Palestine will be censored inside Palestine and Israel or even inside the EU or America because of course this overstretched the anti-Semitic charges"

    That's a crazy-pearl. The left in Israel, Europe and the US criticize Israel's actions all the time. No one ever tries to shut them up. No Western government would call for such censorship, and even if they wanted to, there is no constitutional mechanism for them to impose it, whether it were censorship of Twitter, or blogs, or newspapers, or radio, or television.

  4. If this is the case I will be forced to stop using Twitter all together. I will not tolerate this non violent suppression is what it is. Twitter saw exactly what happened last year and they know the impact the service has. We should all take it personally that they would knowingly and willingly jeopardize our lives by neutralizing our peaceful weapons :(


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