Social media cries foul over Twitter’s new China boss

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Source: BBC

By Stephen McDonell

So Twitter now has a managing director in China – a Chinese woman who used to be in the military – and online activists on the open side of the Great Firewall are freaking out.

Yet it really is hard to see how concerning the appointment of Kathy Chen should actually be.

Twitter is blocked in China but is very popular with Chinese dissidents based in the West.

It is also used by Chinese intellectuals and companies with international links: they access the social networking site with the use of a VPN to escape Beijing’s rigorous censorship regime.

What’s worried many has been the content of Kathy Chen’s initial burst of tweets, like when she proclaimed to Chinese state television @cctvnews “let’s work together to tell great China story to the World!”

Crushing free speech?

People asked: Why would Twitter be wanting to work together with Communist Party controlled media? What would that co-operation entail?

Kathy Chen Twitter pictureShe wrote that she was “thrilled to be” at Twitter to “create more value for Chinese enterprises, creators, partners and developers”.

But some in cyberspace have not shared her enthusiasm. @badiucao wrote “Deep worry about twitter hiring @kathychen2016 as China MD. Itz murder of freespeech.”

Apart from being an engineer in the People’s Liberation Army, some have pointed to her previous employment with the American company Computer Associates. When it operated a joint venture in the 1990s, China’s Ministry of Public Security owned a 20% stake in the local partner entity.

Clearly the implication is that she has been, in some way, linked to the crushing of free speech in her homeland – but really where is the evidence for this?

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