Twitter announces country-based censorship ability

Service will now be able to block content on a country-by-country basis if requested by authorities

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Twitter announces country-based censorship ability Twitter says it remains committed to free speech.
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 29, 2012

Micro-blogging service Twitter has announced that it can now block tweets and users on country basis, to help it comply with local laws.

The company said that the ability to block posts by country will help it to meet legal requirements in different countries, such as  restrictions on Nazi content in France or Germany.

Previously Twitter was only able to block content completely, if it

Censoring of tweets will only be done reactively, the company said, and it will not filter tweets to automatically block them. The process by which the company would work with authorities to block content was not divulged.

Users will be able to see if a tweet or account has been blocked, as it will post a "Tweet withheld" or "@Username withheld" message in place of the affected Tweet or account, and content will only be blocked in specific countries, and will remain available to users outside of the blocking country.

The news drew calls for a boycott of the service, and was criticized by some media groups.

A statement from the company said: "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.

"We believe the new, more granular approach to withheld content is a good thing for freedom of expression, transparency, accountability- and for our users. Besides allowing us to keep Tweets available in more places, it also allows users to see whether we are living up to our freedom of expression ideal."

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