Twitter censorship 'disturbing' - rights group

Reporters Without Borders: Censorship could stifle freedom of expression in Arab world

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Twitter censorship 'disturbing' - rights group Twitter censorship would have stifled Arab demonstrations, RWB says
By  Daniel Shane Published  January 29, 2012

A proposal by micro-blogging site Twitter to censor content on a country-by-country basis has been met with disdain by freedom of expression group Reporters Without Borders.

Twitter announced last week that it would begin blocking users and ‘tweets' in order to comply with legal requirements in the countries it operates.  The site, which is said to have 300 million unique users, was instrumental in orchestrating mass protests across the Arab world last year.

However, the plan has attracted strong criticism from Reporters Without Borders, a prominent Paris-based rights group which lobbies for freedom of speech across the globe, which says it is "disturbed" by the development.

"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," wrote Olivier Basille, director, Reporters Without Borders, in an open letter addressed to Twitter executive chairman James Dorsey. "By finally choosing to align itself with the censors, Twitter is depriving cyber dissidents in repressive countries of a crucial tool for information and organisation."

"Are you going to block the accounts of Syrian cyber dissidents if the Syrian authorities tell you to do so?" the letter continued. "Does your new policy mean that references on Twitter to Arab revolutions and demonstrations in Manama will no longer be accessible in Bahrain?"

The letter also alleges that Twitter's stance that censorship should be decided on a country-by-country basis is "inacceptable" and runs contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Twitter, for its part, says messages and users that have been censored will be clearly signposted and will be available to view outside of their country of origin. The US-based company says that filtering is only in place to comply with relevant legislation, such as Germany and France's outlawing of content that glorifies Nazism. 

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