Twitter Can Censor by Country - Able to Block Tweets Geographically, Marking Content as Withheld

Posted in: Censorship at 27/01/2012 19:45

Twitter Inc. says it can now make content selectively available to users based on geography, and plans to use that ability to enter countries with "different ideas" about freedom of expression as a human right -- reflecting the difficult ethical questions facing Internet companies.

The announcement, published on the official blog of the microblog operator, said Twitter is now able to withhold content from users in a specific country while keeping it available to the rest of the world.

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Twitter to selectively 'censor' tweets by country
Twitter has announced that it now has the technology to selectively block tweets on a country by country basis.

In its blog, Twitter said it could "reactively withhold content from users in a specific country".

But it said the removed content would be available to the rest of the world. Previously when Twitter deleted a tweet, it would disappear worldwide.

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The change will pave the way for long-term expansion into many new countries, though at the cost of tarnishing the reputation for idealism that has surrounded the network.

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So much for the free-wheeling, libertarian reputation of Twitter. The company announced Thursday that it could start censoring certain content in certain countries, a sort of micro-censorship widget that would pop up up in a grey box on the Twitter feed.

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Twitter announced Thursday that it would begin restricting Tweets in certain countries, marking a policy shift for the social media platform that helped propel the popular uprisings recently sweeping across the Middle East.

"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," Twitter wrote in a blog post published Thursday.

Twitter can now censor tweets nationally, rather than globally
The wings of some Twitter users may be clipped a bit less going forward.

The San Francisco-based company said Thursday that it will now be able to censor tweets in specific countries that ask it to do so for legal reasons, rather than having to block tweets globally as before.

Twitter to censor country-by-country [AP]
Twitter has refined its technology so it can censor messages on a country-by-country basis.

The additional flexibility announced is likely to raise fears that Twitter's commitment to free speech may be weakening as the short-messaging company expands into new countries in an attempt to broaden its audience and make more money.

Tweets still must flow
One year ago, we posted "The Tweets Must Flow," in which we said,

"The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact ... almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits."

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.

Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries' limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country -- while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.

We haven't yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld. As part of that transparency, we've expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page,, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

There's more information in our Help pages, both on our Policy and about Your Account Settings.

One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user's voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can't. The Tweets must continue to flow.

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