Twitter boss on being blocked in China: We won’t compromise our values to exist there

L-r: Costolo, Dauman, Sorrell

L-r: Costolo, Dauman, Sorrell

Dick Costolo, the boss of Twitter, said today that his company would “love” to operate in the world’s most populous country, but is not willing to compromise what the microblogging service stands for to get around its ban in China.

Costolo, who was talking on a panel with Viacom boss Philippe Dauman and WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said: “Clearly we as a company would love to be able to participate in China. But we’re blocked.”

“The more important question is what you think of yourself as company and a platform. There are certain comprises that we won’t make,” said Costolo who called the question from Martin Sorrell about the circumstances for existing in China “loaded”.

Twitter, like Facebook and YouTube, has been blocked in China since 2009.

But the company would continue to look at ways to exist within China’s legal framework, Costolo said, after mentioning Twitter being blocked by the Turkish government, a ban which has since been lifted.

On the global competition it faces from the likes of China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo, Costolo said that platforms originating in Asia had not enjoyed the global success of Twitter and Whatsapp, the messaging service recently acquired by rival Facebook.

“The fascinating thing about geographic competition is how, particularly in Asia, services that will explode in some countries, will not take off in others,” he said, references Costolo’s Line messaging app.

Dauman, the boss of MTV-owner Viacom, said that while China presents media companies such as his with a big opportunity in the long term, “cultural restrictions” are limiting them presently.

“The television market will open up eventually [in China], but not in the near term,” he told his audience at the Cannes Lions.

Other markets emerging in Southeast Asia are “interesting opportunities”, Costolo said.

Robin Hicks in Cannes


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