Twitter to censor users' tweets: What does this mean?


Ever since it was first launched back in 2006 (THAT long ago!?) Twitter has been open and free for all of its users, regardless of of any issues of censorship or local problems in their home countries.

Well this week Twitter has announced that in the future that may no longer be the case, and if the micro-blogging platform is required by law to censor tweets, it will. Although it claims this will be on a country-by-country basis, many have been suggesting that those living in Europe and the US are likely to be most affected.

Here’s the official explanation from the Twitter 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. 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.”

In many ways this shouldn’t (don’t hold us to that) affect most users and the blog post does go on to say that if your tweet has been censored you’ll be alerted straight away and hopefully told what caused the issue (and hopefully why). Twitter also assures us all that it’s working closely with a blog monitoring company, which specialises in online censorship, so you’d hope only the most problematic tweets will be weeded out.

It may seem scary to think our tweets could be censored in the future and Twitter is likely to face a lot of criticism in coming weeks. However, you only have to look at recent super-injunctions in the UK to learn that in actual fact there are many things we can’t talk about in the street on a daily basis, so should we really be able to openly talk about those issues online?

The problem lies in the fact that there’s a very fine line between restricting people from talking about serious issues that have legal implications and censoring things just because it’s now possible. Let’s hope Twitter works closely with each country as it promises and they all figure out where that line is.

[Image via Yoshiffles]
Becca Caddy

One thought on “Twitter to censor users' tweets: What does this mean?

  • Oh please let this be a real threat. I’ll happily take a bit of tyranny and oppression if it stops the endless litany of speculative tweets from journalists as they wait for something to actually happen. I would even consider re-implementation of the Star Chamber and the blasphemy laws if it means I no longer have to care what Davina or Peaches had for breakfast. Any thing to make the tweeting stop.

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