Will live tweets on Google lead to less sharing, not more?

Twitter messages will soon appear in Google's search pages. But while the two giants have a win-win scenario for themselves, a study shows that diverse audiences can lead to people self-censoring.

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Twitter users now send over 400 million tweets per day, and use hashtags to search for tweets with a common topic.

Google and Twitter have struck a deal to make live tweets more searchable, Bloomberg reported Wednesday

According to insiders, before the year is up, all of Twitters 284 million users’ tweets will be visible in real time within Google’s search results. Google previously had to troll through Twitter’s massive streams of data to find the information, but now the search engine giant will get direct access to the data.

Even with its large user base, Twitter has been looking to expand its network. Twitter’s chief executive officer Dick Costolo has been on a mission to have tweets seen by more non-users along with generating more advertising revenue.

The social network already provides data to Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, and Yahoo. Twitter also announced this week that it would be advertising in Flipboard’s mobile application and with Yahoo Japan.

While Google and Twitter have struck a win-win deal, did anyone ask Twitter users if they even want their live tweets to be accessible in more places?

Since the National Security Agency digital privacy revelations, what people put on the Internet has been a hot topic. While some would say things such as social media accounts should not be subject to advertisers and government probes, others argue people should not put personal information online to begin with.

In 2013, researchers discovered a rising trend of self-censorship online. Facebook's Adam Kramer and Carnegie Mellon doctoral student Sauvik Das looked at 3.9 million Facebook users and found 71 percent of them deleted potential posts in what the team called "last-minute self-censorship." The researchers measured this phenomenon by tracking how many people typed more than five characters into Facebook's content-input boxes, but then did not post them.

While researchers declined to speculate on what caused users to backtrack on posting comments, the Pew Research Center asked the question for them.

Though the center’s findings did not connect back to the privacy issues, it found some interesting patterns. Last year, Pew surveyed 1,801 adults and found there was a trend of people practicing the “spiral of silence.” This term refers to a person’s tendency to shy away from sharing opinions about policy issues in public, depending on whether they believed their view was widely shared or not.

In addition, the study revealed that if a person’s followers on Facebook or Twitter did not agree with their own opinions, the self-censorship transitioned to real-world scenarios. People were three times more likely to share opinions in personal and online setting if they believed their audience would agree with them.

As people’s personal opinions become more searchable online, this pattern of silence could perpetuate.

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