Twitter says it will remove tweets based on national laws

27 Jan 2012

Microblogging site Twitter has revealed it will censor content – or pull tweets – country-by-country based on national freedom of expression laws. Previously, if it was forced to remove content it would have done so globally.

In a blog post explaining its new ability to have content removed on a national rather than global basis, Twitter said that for historical or cultural reasons certain content – such as pro-Nazi content – needs to be removed in specific countries.

Twitter says it has not yet used this ability to withhold tweets but will do so if required by a nation’s law.

“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 says it has partnered with Chilling Effects to publicly show cease and desist notices that are sent 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.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years