Twitter to allow censorship of posts on a country by country basis

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Twitter's text logo
Image: Twitter.

The microblogging service Twitter has changed its software support for censoring posts. With the new updates, Twitter can now withdraw individual posts and accounts in specific countries, as opposed to a global deletion. Twitter announced these changes in a blog post on Thursday, and released a clarification update on Friday.

Twitter says it needed to make the changes to expand on an international level. It said in a blog post entitled Tweets still must flow, "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." Twitter says it will use the new feature only "when required to do so in response to what we believe to be a valid and applicable legal request."

Cquote1.svg We will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Cquote2.svg

—Twitter

The new tools will give Twitter the ability to withdraw posts and entire accounts in selected countries. Once the posts have been withdrawn, they are replaced with a message saying: "This Tweet/account has been withheld in: Country." and then links to a support page.

The social network has been used in the past as an outlet for political expression. During the Arab Spring, protesters in various countries used Twitter to mobilize support and report information to the outside world.

Message which replaces withheld Tweets in the countries affected.
Image: Twitter.

Some users have proposed boycotting Twitter. The organization Reporters without Borders sent an open letter to Twitter's chairman, Jack Dorsey, saying "We urge you to reverse this decision, which restricts freedom of expression and runs counter to the movements opposed to censorship that have been linked to the Arab Spring, in which Twitter served as a sounding board... Twitter is depriving cyberdissidents in repressive countries of a crucial tool for information and organization."


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