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Twitter Faces Protest Over Censorship Move

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Users are protesting at Twitter’s decision to censor content in certain countries in line with local laws

A new rule implemented by Twitter that can block tweets on a country-by country basis, is drawing the ire of many Twitter users.

Last week Twitter said it could block a Tweet in a country where what was being said is illegal – in accordance with that country’s laws – but the rest of the world would be able to read the content.

Open Platforms

Demand Progress called the decision “tragic” and stressed the importance of open platforms like the microblogging service.

It also called for support to send an open letter to the company to protest the decision.

“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 officials said in a blog post. “Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.”

The company said that until now, the only way they 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,” the blog explained. “We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.”

The post also said that officials haven’t yet used this ability, but if and when they are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, they would attempt to let the user know, and said Twitter would clearly mark when the content has been withheld. As part of that transparency, Twitter has expanded its partnership with Chilling Effects to share a new Webpage, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

Twitter Transparency?

“One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice,” the Twitter post concluded. “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.”

The technology blog TheNextWeb points out that the ability to access blocked content is easy if users alter or bypass certain settings. The site noted Twitter’s own Help Centre page provides users with a healthy amount of information to help Twitterers do just that.

“Users won’t need to hide their IP with a proxy: Twitter lets them change it manually, despite the potential loss in hyperlocal ad dollars for the platform,” TheNextWeb officials posted on the company blog.