Twitter announced last week that they were working on adding Right to Left languages, starting with Arabic, Persian (Farsi), Hebrew and Urdu to their website by this Spring.
These additions are thanks in large part to the @supportarabic campaign, and the fact that according to a study by Paris-based agency Semiocast, Arabic is the fastest growing language on Twitter. Out of 180 million tweets posted daily, 2.2 million were posted in Arabic, amounting to an astonishing 2,000% increase in 12 months.
The @supportarabic account holds over six thousand followers and the Support Arabic campaign has over five thousand members, pressuring the social media company to meet the demand. Support Arabic have supported their demands on their website, by saying: “It is one of the oldest languages, the official language of more than 22 countries and spoken by 350 million people around the world. Many languages have borrowed vocabulary from Arabic and that makes it a source language.”
Arabic holds the 8th place on the top languages shared on Twitter, just after Korean and Dutch. As the Daily Dot reported three weeks ago, about 650,000 Arab speaking users are generating 1.23 million tweets a day.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, Twitter has played a huge role in the recent Arab Spring and other political rebellions in the Middle East, despite not being offered in the Right to Left languages. It comes as no surprise now that they Twitter would want to cater to this new audience.
Supporting the Arabic language on the Twitter website will increase the demand for Twitter accounts among all classes of Arabic societies, says Support Arabic on its website. “It will make it easier and more comfortable to adapt to our everyday spoken language.”
However, this victory in the support of adding their language comes as bitter sweet for the Middle Eastern community. Just this week, Twitter also announced their new censorship policy (mentioned in the last blog post, as well) which states that Twitter will comply with a specific country’s laws regarding what can be said and not said on Twitter. Understandably, this does not sit well with many Middle Easterners who live under oppressive regimes, and who rely on Twitter to freely communicate to one another.
Which begs the question, what’s the point in offering the new languages if people can’t use them how they would like to? If the new censorship policy does get instituted, guarantee the number of users will drastically decline.