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Twitter CEO Dick Costolo talks censorship

In a live interview, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo talked about why Twitter announced it would withhold tweets when they violate a country's local laws.

The question on many people's minds since last week is why Twitter announced that it would remove tweets on a country-by-country basis as per local governments' requests--a plan that some people called censorship.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo when he addressed the Web 2.0 conference in October 2011. Dan Farber/CNET

Tonight, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was able to answer that question when he sat down with Peter Kafka for an interview at the D:Dive Into Media conference in Dana Point, Calif.

Costolo started out by saying that there hadn't been any change in Twitter's policy on removing tweets, but rather the social media company wanted to announce that it would post blocked content for the rest of the world to see--while still adhering to the laws locally.

"This is purely a reactive capability," he said. "We don't proactively do anything."

Skeptics of Twitter's announcement, including Reporters Without Borders Director Olivier Basille, said that one of the main reasons the company made this announcement was to court China's business--a country where Twitter is now blocked.

In tonight's interview, Costolo said that he doesn't see a way that Twitter could ever operate in China under the current system and that this was not a move to seek China's business.

Throughout the interview, Costolo maintained that Twitter's new policy is "the most honest, transparent and forward-looking way," and that, "When we get a legal order that is valid, we will try to make sure that all the tweets are viewable in as many parts of the world as possible."

A few other interesting tidbits came out during the interview:

Twitter's public fight with Google: Costolo said everyone at Twitter reveres Google but that users should be able to search for information on either site. "Regarding access to data, Google crawls us over 100 million times per day, the Googlebot has more than 3 billion pages," Costolo said. "They have the data, I think, that they need."

Not blacking out in protest of SOPA: "There were 3.9 million tweets that day, Wednesday, about SOPA and PIPA," Costolo said. "When you've got an amplifier like that, you don't pull the batteries out of the microphone."

Facebook's IPO vs. Twitter going public: "Mark and Sheryl are doing a great job running that company," Costolo said. "It's a really big company and they've had amazing success." However, Twitter is focusing on its own goals, he said. Eventually though, "Twitter will probably go public," he said, "because the cap table can't include more than 500 shareholders."