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, http://chillingeffects.org/twitter, 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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 7:15pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 8:12pm

    really?

    What could be so offensive in 140 characters that it requires a nation to demand censoring?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    A Guy (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 8:19pm

    Re: It is also an elegant way

    It's probably just a simple IP based redirect, maybe combined with the location setting on an individual users account.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 8:22pm

    Re: really?

    The evil magnet link perhaps.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 8:23pm

    Re: really?

    I know EZTV was using Twitter as a backup for releases :)
    When their servers got down :(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    A Guy (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 8:28pm

    Re: really?

    The moderation system ate my reply...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 8:28pm

    Re: really?

    Check this out LoL

    https://twitter.com/eztv_it

    It has been running for years now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    TPBGirl (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 9:45pm

    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 :(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    A Guy (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:33am

    Re: It is also an elegant way

    The best part about it, of course, is that it is so easy to bypass that it's almost laughable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:55am

    Response to: TPBGirl on Jan 26th, 2012 @ 9:45pm

    Which is why each request is going to Chilling Effects: so that people can see which countries like censorship more than China. Only one springs to mind, though...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:01am

    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!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:51am

    Re:

    The internet is a multiplier not the end of all movement.
    People protested before you just need to walk and talk.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Blatant Coward (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:11am

    I was really disheartened by this. I used to gauge news service honesty by comparing regional tweets to news service coverage. Now, back to the big control group source of info unluss I can magically find out local IRC or something.

    Sponsored tweets, silenced tweets, how long until 'modified or injected tweets'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 4:04am

    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, it is not all censorship

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 4:33am

    Re: Re: It is also an elegant way

    I know. That is what I like. Follow the law, but only to the letter of the law not to what they intend.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 4:34am

    Re: Re: really?

    Sweet

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 4:40am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 4:44am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 4:48am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 5:16am

    No problem, just use babelfish or an online site translator to view the 'blocked' content. Online translators get around most blocking, unless the translator itself is blocked.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    GamerLEN, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 5:17am

    Frustrating... but I can see why.

    It sucks, but given that in some countries it'd be twitter with censorship or no twitter at all I can kind of understand where they're coming from on this one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 5:26am

    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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 5:33am

    Re: Frustrating... but I can see why.

    and the benefit is we will be able to see what countries censor what

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 5:45am

    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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Gary, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 6:13am

    Re:

    They fear American Spring that's it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 6:19am

    2012, the year of censorship, only 11 more months to go!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 6:36am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 8:21am

    Re: Re: Frustrating... but I can see why.

    Yeah, and being outside those nations we can laugh at all the jokes about the their kings, queens, and royalty.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 8:48am

    Pussies!!!

    Just shut down Twitter in those countries and let the backlash from the people handle it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 9:04am

    Re:

    Your government does not love you. It appears they have taken an us against them mentality. By the people for the people? Long long gone. Just look at Patriot act I & II, NDAA, cafta, nafta, TPP.




    Who are they waging war against?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 10:05am

    Re: Pussies!!!

    Priorities my friend

    Business>Money>Profit>Influence>Exposure>Profit>Customers>Profit>. .................................................................................................... ................
    ..........>Free Speech

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    hmm (profile), Jan 28th, 2012 @ 9:30am

    streisand to the rescue!

    Single tweet from non-celebrity annoys US/chinese government.....

    Tweet gets locally blocked

    Dozens of sites now host this blocked tweet drawing MASSIVE attention to it world-wide

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2012 @ 2:41pm

    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

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/twitter-uncloaks-a-years-worth-of-dmca-takedown- notices-4410-in-all.ars?comments=1#comments-bar

    hope the linking is ok

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Lili, Feb 1st, 2012 @ 8:26am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This