Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

Summary: Twitter said today that it will begin censoring tweets, if required by law, on a country-by-country basis. Europeans and Americans, however, will most likely be affected.

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Twitter, until today, has been a free and open platform for tens of millions of people around the world, to say and share what they like.

The problem is government's in reality do not like their citizens to be 'free and open' in what they say, despite freedom of speech and expression laws. Even here in the United Kingdom, we are barred from talking about certain subjects, and banned from even saying that there is a ban in place on certain subjects.

But as Twitter grows and expands, it has to abide by the laws of the country it is in --- just as any other company does operating on a borderless, worldwide level.

The microblogging site said today on its company blog that while it has not previously been able to censor tweets, much to the annoyance of government's and certain ordinary citizens alike, Twitter will now "give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country --- while keeping it up in the rest of the world."

While the UK has super-injunctions, Twitter cites cases such as France and Germany where pro-Nazi content is banned for "historical or cultural reasons". Fair enough.

But the UK as one good example, along with many other European countries, have secrecy laws and privacy laws that overlap freedom of speech and expression laws. Taking photographs of people in public, bar in restricted areas, on the most part is legal in most European member states. But harassing somebody day in and day out infringes their right to privacy.

Ironically, some of the most developed and 'free' societies in the world, like the UK, France, and Germany, will be more affected than countries like Egypt, Libya, and Syria, that are still battling with their own freedom and democracy in their respective countries. It will be more likely that developed nations, such as the U.S. and European countries, will request for Twitter to censor tweets or topics than those with repressive regimes like Syria and Russia.

Twitter, as one of the forerunners in the free and open Web, will be criticised heavily for this. But as an Internet company, it has little choice but to comply where possible, and create a platform that allows creativity to flow, while illegality to suffer.

How does this affect you?

It probably won't. Twitter is working with Chilling Effects, a blog monitoring online censorship amongst other things, to be as open and as transparent as possible. It's also likely that, based on its blog post, Twitter users will be proactively notified when a tweet cannot be displayed in their country.

If, for example, a celebrity was to be granted a court injunction preventing the disclosure of an affair, then it would be illegal for Twitter to algorithmically or manually update its Trending Topics of either name, within the country where the order was made, or defined by the scope of the order.

Twitter said, speaking to Marketing Land that most of the tweets relate to DMCA notices, which requires tweets to be pulled because they contain links to infringed copyright material, or links to torrent sites where such content is available.

But should a country outlaw the tweeting of an event, a protest, a demonstration, or anything negative about their government -- so called "North Korea rules" -- will Twitter censor those tweets too? The scope is yet to be defined, and as with most 'laws', the policy comes first and the practicalities are worked out after the bill has passed.

"The tweets must continue to flow", Twitter reiterates. But whether or not you see them is something entirely different.

Related:

Topic: Social Enterprise

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11 comments
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  • So Arab Spring is Ok

    But Occidental Occupation ist verboten?
    Capitalist Running Dogs still enslave the 99% ?
    fix boyonets (r r r), charge @ 1% ers

    viva la revolution!
    walkerjian@...
  • RE: Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

    Ok, this is the end of twitter as a free speech tool. Soon we'll see another similar tool which will take the opportunity to give users free speech. Twitter is, as I see, dooming itself
    victor.rossetti@...
  • This is NOT about "free speech"

    Per the U.S. Constitution, emphasis added:

    [quote][i][b]Congress[/b] shall make no law[/i] respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or [i]abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press[/i]; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[/quote]

    In other words:
    -- for U.S. posters, Twitter (or any other social media provider) can choose to censor, delete, edit, fold, crease, or mutilate anything posted on their network [b]if they feel like it[/b], or provided that it isn't libelous, slanderous, or inciting people to commit a crime (traditional exemptions from regulation of freedom of speech & expression in the USA);
    -- for non-US posters, Twitter, et al, can edit, redact, fold, or censor anything posted in accordance with any laws passed within that person's nation, as long as said laws don't violate prior laws or constitutional pronouncements guaranteeing freedom of speech & expression

    There's no real change here from the existing regulations & "censorship" that happens on "traditional" media outlets (radio, newspaper, TV, etc.). If anything, social media advocates should be thrilled, because Twitter is "growing up" & acting like a real media outlet.
    spdragoo@...
    • RE: Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

      @spdragoo@... there is a breaking of the bond of trust. The service that does that will suffer for it as users leave. Quite legitimately, a service that can't be trusted won't be used.

      That is what has changed. This is a slippery slope. Very slippery...
      RyuDarragh
    • RE: Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

      @spdragoo@... Ah but the US Government already has violated our freedoms as the quote "per the US Constitution" with the passage of the 9/11 act. Since that act has passed if you are of a Muslim decent, or if you speak of anything that is potentially deemed as a threat as per the 9/11 act (which is very vague on the definition of a threat and more or less left up to personal interpretation) then you are put on a terrorist watch list and all communications are monitored.

      The gross abuse of the constitution goes even further in which some states (mine included here in the midwest) have passed laws in which the police now no longer have to present the court with evidence to try to obtain a warrant for search and seizure of ones property. They no longer even have to have a warrant, so they can just go on a hunch and enter your home and perform a search and there is nothing you can do about it. The law in the bill of rights protecting a person from illegal search and seizure went out the door with the passing of the 9/11 act.

      And now we have upon us the SOPA/PIPA act which is said to target the illegal content hosted through file sharing sites (which oddly enough there is already laws that are already in place to try to help stop the copyright infringement of software and movies and music already in place not only nationally, but internationally as well.) What is allowing this to happen is the fact that the holders of the copyrights are not working with the judicial systems of the world to act upon those laws. The Sopa/Pipa act is only laying the groundwork for future adaptation to further censor web pages and social media sites that do not comply with the governments requests to remove or block certain information to be accessed, which thus leads more and more into the big brother complex laid out in the book 1984 by George Orwell. Read it sometime as it will open your eyes up to how much of the book is already reality today.
      mandrake47460
  • Censoring in general. . .

    .
    A day will come when NO ONE wants to hear the 7+ dirty words.
    .
    . . . . . . . . . Just not today.
    .
    fm-usa
  • Twitter should stay out of it

    Let the individual countries police their own people. If someone in Germany were to print pro-Nazi propaganda on paper and stick them to light poles all over Berlin, would it make sense to tell the paper manufacturer that they are responisble for the flyers and that they will have to take them down? Should they fine the light pole manufacturer?
    GSG
    • RE: Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

      @GSG Dig!
      RodsMine
  • RE: Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

    Now Twitter is able to make what the Chinese Party and gouvernement requires: remove any content which may be a threat to social harmony. So Twitter will return to China with honors. And I will use my Twitter account without VPN or other technical burden.
    ebolavir
  • RE: Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

    "and banned from even saying that there is a ban in place on certain subjects."

    Outside of China, I've never heard of such a thing. Wow, the UK really needs to rethink what "free speech" really means.
    CobraA1
  • RE: Twitter begins censoring content: How this will affect you

    "Free speech" doesn't mean what you think it means.

    In the United States, "free speech" means that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    It doesn't say the press (Newspapers/TV/Radio/Internet) cannot censor themselves, which is something they routinely do.

    If Twitter is complying with the laws of the countries within which they are doing business and providing services and/or content, then the fault does not lie within Twitter. If you want to talk about Naziism in Germany, or the Holocaust in Iran, good luck. It's not Twitter (or Google, or RIM, et al) that's preventing you; it;s the government in that country that is doing the censoring.
    bb_apptix