Free Speech

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
blocking, censorship, free speech, global, location


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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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 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

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