Twitter Decides To Censor Locally, Rather Than Block Globally, In Response To Government Demands

from the choices... dept

Twitter just announced that it has set up the ability to block content on a country specific basis (e.g., if Germany demanded some content be taken down, Twitter can now just have that content blocked in Germany). I know some people saw this and got upset about “censorship!” but looking at the details, it actually looks like Twitter is doing a smart thing here. You could argue that the proper response would be to stand up to local governments and say, “sorry, we don’t block anything” — and I’d actually have sympathy with that response. But the truth is that if a government is demanding censorship, then Twitter is likely going to have to comply or face complete blocking. The solution that it came up with is somewhat more elegant: it will just block the specific content in the specific location and (importantly) will try to let users know that the content is blocked while also sending as much info as it can to the Chilling Effects website so that people can learn about what’s being censored. This is a lot more transparent and hopefully actually shines more light on efforts to censor Twitter.

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.

Oh, one useful tidbit of info? While it says it hasn’t had to use this country by country blocking yet… and it uses the example of Nazi-related content, the place where it’s already been censoring content… is in the US, in response to DMCA complaints as per Danny Sullivan:

Twitter’s already been pulling content where piracy or copyright claims are lodged, under the existing DMCA law. Today’s announcement isn’t changing that, though potentially, Twitter might begin disclosing DMCA takedowns within its own search results and Twitter timelines. That doesn’t happen yet, but Twitter says it hopes to do so over time.

We’ve covered some of those activities in the past, and if this actually brings more attention to highly questionable takedowns (such as many we’ve seen issued to Twitter…) that might actually be a good thing.

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Comments on “Twitter Decides To Censor Locally, Rather Than Block Globally, In Response To Government Demands”

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Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

It is also an elegant way

of showing to the world who is blocking what and how often. Not to mention that it keeps the information from becoming unavailable based on what one government or content holder says it wants censored.

I would also ask that Twitter open source their method so that other websites will be able to do the same.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: really?

Is it the characters expressed as a link that are found to be offensive, or is it what is found after the jump?

Those who wish to censor are simply being lazy and attack the most assessable choke point rather than expending the resources to pursue that which they find offensive. They want to foist their dirty work upon the backs of others, this is reprehensible.

TPBGirl (profile) says:

I really do understand what Twitter is trying to do BUT.. isnt this similar to what MPAA/Hollywood wants? I mean, they want to block contest & websites from USA viewing eyes.

They turn around and say now…
“We just want to do what twitter is doing and people don’t seam to mind.”

I just don’t want this to turn into an example that mpaa and riaa can use to lure politicians and new bills. Hell, maybe I read the whole thing wrong. lol Its becoming a nightmare here lately.

“War on Internet Freedom” all at once! Brain overload 🙁

Anonymous Coward says:

the thin end of the wedge, people. with the laws that are already in, those that are coming and those that are proposed, we wont be able to write, say or see anything before long without governments knowing and able to ban us from the net, haul us into court and bang us up in jail. as for being able to organise ourselves into protest groups? that will be stopped completely. the trend of forcing governments out of office (Egypt, Tunisia etc) because of they way they are ignoring, even despising the people, is ending!

abc gum says:

Re: Re:

“do realize not all people in the world are American, they all do not have your same ideas of freedom, learn to deal with it”

Yes, there are a few in every crowd who do not see beyond their own problems, do not think they represent a majority.

“it is not all censorship”

Communication relies upon the foundation of common definitions. Without consensus, communication becomes difficult at best and eventually impossible. When ones ability to communicate is inhibited, this is referred to as censored. This is a commonly held definition of the word, references can be found in many dictionaries.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes it is. Period. If you a controlling power want to say what someone can or can not be said about anything then that is censorship.

By definition “Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.”

The problem is that everyone can find something that they see as objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people from time to time. So to censor already involves subjective opinion.

There is not enough space on this webpage to get it to a full discussion on censorship.

So all I will say is that not just no, but hell no.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is it just coincidence that all this effort to “shape” the net comes on cusp, of recent examples of the people of certain countries protesting against their governments.

Between infringement and censorship, infringement would be the lesser evil, but also lays the foundation for full blown censorship.

I’d like to trust our goverments, that everything they do is for its people, and no ulterior motives are involved, but the more they push for things that clearly some of their voters dont want, you have to stop and wonder, who do our governments work for now, if not for its people?

Maybe it is just a baseless assumption on my part, but if not, it makes me wonder, are there specific reasons why goverments would want to censor its voters, under the guise of other issues, such as infringment

If everything a governmeent does, is for its people, what would be the point of censorship on government issues

Anonymous Coward says:

What the hell is going on, have these companies been pressured or are they just showing their true colours

Im sorry, but the more i think about it the more i get pissed.
Twitter was an essential tool for protesters to coordinate their protest, instantly
Instant on masse communication, very important to a protest

The day this is used to censor a protest on a supposedly free country, is the day we finally get confirmation that we’ve all been duped

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…the day we finally get confirmation that we’ve all been duped…

How much confirmation do you need?

The “free speech zones” surrounded by cyclone fencing weren’t enough for you? Or maybe those never really affected you… If you saw them on TV, you said, ?Ha, ha, look at all those dirty hippies in a cage.? Just like at the zoo.

Anonymous Coward says:

be funny if we secretly coordinated a mass posting of fake links to, supposedly infringing material

Like to see the content providers trying to explain the mass censoring of tweets that they had no right to take down, as i get the feeling that just the mention of a tv/movie/music show will get their trigger fingers out, with next to naught, consideration, on whether the links actually do infringe thus proving how easy this can be turned into censorship on someones whim

or……maybe, say, for example, put the bill of rights on a tweet and then a fake link to american copyrighted material at the bottom.
Be interesting to see if the bill of rights means anything to these corps as their precious strangle hold

Read on another site that some of these dcma takedowns are from content providers trying to censor tweets with links to their artist’s work

hope the linking is ok

Lili says:

Change your way of communicating

I know that teenagers and 20-somethings today have no idea about world history but seriously, is this really a problem?

Native code talkers used code to communicate during the war.

Go around the censorship nonsense.

Create local and larger twitter and email codes. Every time someone attempts to monitor you-change the code and communicate differently. By the time they attempt to infiltrate you to decrypt the code-change it.

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