In a blog post today Twitter said that it now has the ability to selectively block tweets on a country by country basis. In a blog post Twitter said it could “reactively withhold content from users in a specific country”.
The change means Twitter can reflect national sensitivities and where freedom of expression comes with a fair dose of censorship.
It could mean for instance in France and Germany where Nazi-flavoured content is restricted or in China where a lot more is restricted.
It also harks back to the long ago time that Yahoo! faced the wrath of a French court for not blocking French users from accessing Nazi memorabilia sites.
At the time, back in 2000 Yahoo! said that it did not have the technology to track which countries its users were from. It later banned the sale of such memorabilia.
The move would put Twitter in line with Google’s search results and how it deals with China and elsewhere. It is a sort of coming of age for the microblogging service and likely connected, in part at least, with its desire to expand internationally. Some are likley to say the move is about censorship and is connected with a desire to launch a Chinese service sometime in the future.
“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,” Twitter said in a blog post.Twitter says it hasn’t used this ability yet, but says that if and when it is required to do so it will attempt to let users know, and it will clearly mark when the content has been withheld.
As part of that transparency, it says it has expanded its partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page, http://chillingeffects.org/twitter, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.
“One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can’t. The Tweets must continue to flow,” Twitter said in a blog post.