Twitter to Block Offending Tweets in Certain Countries

Published: January 27, 2012

New censoring mechanism will respond to ‘different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.’

Twitter has announced that it will be censoring users’ tweets so that they don’t appear in countries where the ideas they espouse could be illegal. The example given on the Twitter blog is banning pro-Nazi tweets from appearing in France or Germany, where such activities are illegal. The blog entry says that until now, Twitter would have to take down an offending tweet globally, but a new mechanism allows them to respond to take-down requests on a country-by-country basis. Via the blog:

“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.”

Twitter says it has yet to actually censor any tweets under the new system, but it of course raises all sorts of questions over whether this could lead to, say, tweets promoting gay rights getting withheld from countries where they’re not so kosher, or tweets in the U.K. getting blacked out because they co-ordinate some good ol’ fashioned smashy-smashy. Of course, Twitter says they’ll be open about it when they eventually do censor tweets, and playing “censor the hypothetical tweet” only carries us so far, so we suppose we’ll cross that whole “free speech” bridge when we come to it.