Twitterers have a message: Tomorrow, turn off the tweets.
Users of the social media site are planning a Twitter boycott to protest the company's new ability to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis. Twitter announced Thursday that it can now block tweets, as well as individual accounts, from appearing to users in specific countries, and that it may use the feature to comply with governments' request to censor information. Before, Twitter could only block tweets and accounts globally.
Some users are calling on fellow Twitterers to silence their tweets on January 28 as a way of expressing their opposition to Twitter's plan. They are using the hashtag #TwitterBlackout to organize the boycott, and tweets tagged with the hashtag are rolling in at a clip of about 12 per minute. The tweets span a range of languages, including English, German, Spanish and Arabic.
"Twitter starts deleting tweets, I stop posting tweets. Join the #twitterblackout tomorrow!" tweeted @HousseinyRita.
Another user, @Fadi_alshehri, wrote, "#twitterblackout if i cant talk freely then i don't wanna talk."
The protest follows less than two weeks after thousands of websites, including Wikipedia, Google, and Reddit, protested two controversial anti-piracy bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, by shutting down or posting notices outlining the downsides of the proposed legislation. Google alone managed to secure more than 7 million signatures for an online petition opposing the bills, and tweets about SOPA and PIPA numbered in the hundreds of thousands the day of the protest.
Yet this online protest, and others like it, have relied on Twitter as a means of communicating between protestors and buttressing support for their movements. It remains to be seen whether silencing tweets will call attention to the cause, or whether the mute accounts will go unnoticed. Twitter defended its plan to offer the ability to block tweets in certain countries by noting that it remains committed to free speech online.
"One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user's voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can't. The Tweets must continue to flow," Twitter wrote.