Tweets of Freedom

In April 2009, young people in Moldova used Twitter to organize protests against their government, and, two months later, it famously helped Iranians assemble and share information during their post-election protests. Now, the same thing is beginning to happen in China.

NEW YORK – Google has been widely celebrated for its loud refusal to continue censoring its search results in China. It is still unclear whether Google will continue to operate in China, but in any event we are not about to see much change in China’s Internet policy. More likely, all this “foreign meddling” will merely cause the Chinese government to dig in its heels.

Even if Google does ultimately leave China, the game is not over. Western companies can promote Internet freedom from the outside, by providing useful technology as well as the keys to access it. Call this “Twitter diplomacy.”

Twitter is largely blocked by China’s “great firewall” (GFW), which prevents Chinese people from accessing certain sites. Yet Twitter has an almost religious following among tech-savvy Chinese, whose determination to use the service outstrips authorities’ efforts to block access to it.

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