Twitter begins censoring tweets by country, when required by law

By Lee Kaelin on January 27, 2012, 9:00 AM

Twitter has confirmed that it will begin to censor tweets, if required by law, on a country by country basis. Until now the micro-blogging service has remained a free and open platform for millions of people worldwide, empowering its users to say and share whatever they like.

"The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact […] almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits," the company said in a statement on its blog.

Like all worldwide, borderless businesses though, Twitter is required to obey the laws of the countries it is in, so in order to comply they will begin censoring content published that falls foul of laws in individual countries, rather than on a global level.

For example, in countries like France and Germany, where pro-Nazi comments and celebration are against the law, Twitter will censor tweets containing pro-Nazi comments for micro-bloggers in those two countries, whilst still allowing those that do not ban it to view the tweets.

"One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user's voice," Twitter continued. "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 company said it would do its best to contact any users affected by the new censorship policy, and will clearly mark any tweets that have been censored. They have also extended their transparency through chillingeffects.org with a Twitter section on the site to make it easier for people to find legal notices and takedowns – currently it is mainly full of DMCA takedown requests, presumably we will begin to see tweets that are censored added to the site accompanied by the reasons they were blocked.

As one of the leaders of a free and open web, Twitter is likely to see considerable condemnation for taking this stance. It does however have little choice if it wants to avoid heavy lawsuits and government pressure the world over. Ultimately they hope to continue to allow the freedom that has enabled creativity to flow without breaking individual country’s laws.




User Comments: 15

Got something to say? Post a comment
Raswan Raswan said:

"Like all worldwide, borderless businesses though, Twitter is required to obey the laws of the countries it is in, so in order to comply they will begin censoring content published that falls foul of laws in individual countries, rather than on a global level."

What exactly does this mean? If twitter has servers in the country, they are beholden to its laws? Or some other physical presence? It can't simply be "if users from x country can log onto twitter, twitter is responsible for the the content."

I don't use twitter, but I say any condemnation is well-deserved. This sounds uber-fishy.

Guest said:

"The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact [...] almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits,"

In other words, you can say whatever you like, as long as it's what we want you to say. I guess this means "free speech" should be labelled as false advertising, since it really isn't that free at all.

MilwaukeeMike said:

It depends where the users are, not the servers. it means very little for countries like France and Germany, as mentioned. And it means if you live in the middle east or China, expect a lot of greyed out tweets. If you're in the US or Canada, I can't see how this affects you at all.

Also... this isn't anything new. All international companies have to obey the laws of the countries they operate in. it's almost surprising this is even news.

Guest said:

The end of the free internet is here eh? ;)

inventix1136 said:

With SOPA/PIPA, national security letters, etc..., we need to change our anthem from "land of the free and the home of the brave" to "land of the free and home of the brave unless otherwise indicated by the governing body or RIAA/MPAA or any other private corporation that has given enough campaign contributions to your representative".

NOTE: The change in Twitter was due to MegaUpload case where a company that had no presence in U.S. had U.S. laws applied to them. Can't wait until Playboy or Victoria Secret executives are extradited to Saudi Arabia for breaking Saudi Laws since the women are not in burka's obviously..

fimbles fimbles said:

"freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits"

Talk about oxymoronic.....

example1013 said:

inventix1136 said:

With SOPA/PIPA, national security letters, etc..., we need to change our anthem from "land of the free and the home of the brave" to "land of the free and home of the brave unless otherwise indicated by the governing body or RIAA/MPAA or any other private corporation that has given enough campaign contributions to your representative".

NOTE: The change in Twitter was due to MegaUpload case where a company that had no presence in U.S. had U.S. laws applied to them. Can't wait until Playboy or Victoria Secret executives are extradited to Saudi Arabia for breaking Saudi Laws since the women are not in burka's obviously..

Yes, because tweeting involves building a business around the transfer of pirated material, then laundering all the illegal money made off of said business through multiple sportscars. How the **** can anyone sympathize with a guy who spent his entire professional career cheating people out of money, and then spent all the shit tons of money he took on the most disgustingly expensive luxuries, all while using his residence in New Zealand as protection from prosecution?

Next we're going to start saying Nazi war criminals shouldn't have been prosecuted because they were in Brazil.

MilwaukeeMike said:

inventix1136 said:

With SOPA/PIPA, national security letters, etc..., we need to change our anthem from "land of the free and the home of the brave" to "land of the free and home of the brave unless otherwise indicated by the governing body or RIAA/MPAA or any other private corporation that has given enough campaign contributions to your representative".

NOTE: The change in Twitter was due to MegaUpload case where a company that had no presence in U.S. had U.S. laws applied to them. Can't wait until Playboy or Victoria Secret executives are extradited to Saudi Arabia for breaking Saudi Laws since the women are not in burka's obviously..

Execpt for the part where it DOESN'T AFFECT THE USA BECAUSE WE HAVE NO LAWS LIKE THIS. But whatever... we don't want the facts to get the way of a good piece of propaganda.

NOTE: It matters where the company sells their stuff, not where it's based. Notice how China is making knock-off everything from iPads to Gucci bags and we can't do a thing about it because the factories are in China. if your website is available in the US, that's the same as a store in the US. You're not free to do what you want because your servers are over seas.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

weren't they doing this in Iran months agoi?

Guest said:

"if your website is available in the US, that's the same as a store in the US. You're not free to do what you want because your servers are over seas."

Except it's nothing like this at all. A store requires you to have a physical presence with physical goods in the country you wish to sell in. But America doesn't own the Internet. They don't have the right to control servers which are physically located in another country.

The fact that you can connect to these servers via the Internet in America and view their content does not imply you own any rights over that content (unless you originally created the content being hosted). It's the equivalent of walking into an Art Gallery in France and saying, "That picture offends me. You must burn it.". The content is located in another country. You don't control that country. Therefore you shouldn't have any control over any of the physical property of that country, whether you can VIEW it from your country or not.

RH00D RH00D said:

This is pretty stupid... I strongly believe in freedom of speech. There are some things people say that I REALLY don't like, but I'd never try to tell them they don't have the right to say it.

You give them an inch and they take a mile. That is why any censorship of speech shouldn't be allowed. And besides, who has the right to be judging? Who is the "moral police" on what should and shouldn't be censored?

I'm not really talking about Twitter at this point, but just censorship as a whole. What gives ANYONE the authority to say "this is wrong and should be censored"? Trying to act like what YOU believe to be wrong should be censored for everyone else is stupid.

Morals are subjective.

TJGeezer said:

Seems to me that Twitter is a business and has no choice but to operate under the laws of any country where they have a presence. Tweeters have already invented their own lexicon and will do so again if they want to organize movements or in other ways get under the skin of whoever thinks they own that people in their territories.

I'm inclined to praise Twitter for being completely out in the open and not blindsiding people with this. For those with ambitions to get around whoever owns the local politicians (big corporations in the U.S.) what everyone needs are dark nets or filter-evading slang. That last should be no challenge at all for the people who developed the language of texting and tweeting. Since Twitter will do what it feels it must in order to stay in business, if you need a new regional IP address to frustrate the local mind police, couldn't you tweet through a proxy? Seems to me that should work.

Guest said:

So if Bachr Al Assad (the syrian dictator) passes a law to outlaw any tweet condemning his murderous repression, Tweeter will just oblige ?

Great.

Guest said:

Censorship is great!

All non-true religions tweets should be censored [What religion is true? All? None, One? Some?"]

All atheist or blasphemous tweets should be censored [Religious people do not want them]

All ideological tweets should be censored [ Only non-controversial ideologies can be allowed]

Any political point of view t is opposed by somebody should be banned

Any tweet that a child should not be allowed to see should be banned]

Any commercial tweet that is not a paid advertisement by Twitter should be banned

Any pictures of children should be banned because it appeals to the prurient interests of pedophile

Any mention or depiction of sexual activities, except for medial tweets, should be banned because it offends moralists

Following my brilliant criteria, only family tweets will be approved.However some Tweets that look innocent should be banned because they promote banned ideas. Example "Mary cooked lamb today" should be banned because it implies a cruel death for an animal and offends vegetarians.

If you believe that my idea are logical then you as sane as a censor is

Guest said:

It appears that we are... as a global community, on a course that will eventually find reasons to censor and restrict free speech almost everywhere. The notion that one's right to speak openly and without fear, carries some unnamed and undefined responsibility... to whom we are also unsure, is being invented as we go. If a web service based in a democracy is subject to the draconian laws of some foreign land, then our national constitutions are already being successfully subverted.

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.