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Twitter’s CEO Weighs in on Google, Censorship Ahead of Facebook IPO

Tuesday, 31 Jan 2012 | 11:26 AM ET
Twitter
Twitter

The timing of AllThingsD’s “D: Dive into Media” conference couldn’t be better—the conference gathers media and tech executives on the eve of the expected Facebook IPO.

And it’s appropriate that the CEO of arguably the second most powerful private company in Silicon Valley, Twitter’s Dick Costolo, kicked off the event.

Costolo tried to dodge all IPO-relatedquestions, but he couldn’t avoid the looming topic of Facebook’s pending offering.

After complimenting Facebook’s Mark Zuckerbergand Sheryl Sandberg, Costolo stressed that his company has no plans to go public, and would prefer not to have the distraction of dealing with an IPO—implying that Facebook feels the same way. Costolo said he repeatedly tells his employees to focus on Twitter’s goals, and not on a specific “market window.”

But, he acknowledged that at some point “we’re going to run into the 500 shareholder rule,” legislation that mandates a company file financial information after it tops 500 shareholders. Twitter has a reputation for being very careful to limit its number of shareholders, so after Costolo left the stage, execs around the conference were buzzing that Twitter will face growing backlash from investors and employees who are eager to cash out.

In the meantime Costolo is focusing on Twitter’s business, which as he put it, is not a media business per se, but rather, “in the business of media” – distributing content and driving traffic to media companies, films, web properties. Costolo said Twitter’s not particularly interested in analytics, or commerce, but is focusing solely on advertising – promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and promoted trends. Is Costolo leaving money on the table? “We don’t feel we need to add another component to the business,” he said, “We just need to scale this up.” And the election season is helping—Costolo pointed to the mass adoption of Twitter by republican candidates as a real-time feedback loop.

As to the recent controversy about Twitter’s plans to “micro-censor” content in certain countries, Costolo was adamant that the company is more focused than ever on the importance of the open internet and free speech. He said that there’s “no change in stance” in respect to content and that the goal is to leave Tweets up for as many people as possible. Does Twitter’s new policy have anything to do with expansion into China? In a word: no. At this point China’s still too restrictive for Twitter to operate.

Costolo praised Apple—calling it Twitter’s “role model.” Considering his praise for Facebook as well, his comments about Google all the more stinging when it came to the controversy over “Google + your world.” Costolo said “we think they should drive people to the results they’re looking for.” But even without Google directing people to Twitter, he said the company is growing faster than it ever has.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.