Twitter to censor content in some countries

In move that signals change from previous stance, microblogging site will block tweets in certain countries, if and when required, instead of removing content globally to meet "contours of freedom of expression" in foreign nations.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Twitter says it will block tweets, if and when required, from users in specific countries rather than implement a worldwide filter. The move signals a marked change for the microblogging service deemed pivotal in the uprisings which swept the Middle East region.

"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," the company said in a blog post Thursday. "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."

Twitter said it previousl y would only remove content across the global platform when taking into account limitations in a country, but would now "reactively withhold content from users in a specific country, while keeping it available in the rest of the world".

The company said it has yet to carry out any censorship thus far, but added that if and when required to withhold a tweet in a specific country, it will attempt to inform the user and clearly indicate when content has been withheld.

Twitter also noted that it would be transparent with users when content is withheld and and reasons for the block. "One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user's voice," the company said. "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 acknowledged that it had previously said it would not remove tweets on the basis of their content. "Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users' right to speak freely and preserve their ability to contest having their private information revealed," the company said in a post a year ago.

Its latest move marks a change in tact for a platform deemed pivotal in the various political uprisings--dubbed the "Arab Spring"--across the Middle East including Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, according to a Reuters report Thursday.

The change is likely to have wide implications since Twitter has a large user base outside the United States including Indonesia and Japan.

The change also comes amid reports of a legal clash between India and Internet giants where the Asian economic giant had instructed Web companies including Google and Facebook to pre-screen user content as well as remove offensive and objectionable content from their sites. The Indian government, however, this week dismissed suggestions that it was promoting online censorship.

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