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Twitter Allows for Censorship of Tweets in Individual Countries

(imsge: Elias Schwerdtfeger/flickr)

I think we should definitely be concerned that Twitter is bowing to pressure and allowing for the censorship of tweets in individual foreign countries.


Twitter has refined its technology so it can censor messages on a country-by-country basis.

The additional flexibility announced on Thursday is likely to raise fears that Twitter’s commitment to free speech may be weakening as the short-messaging company expands into new countries in an attempt to broaden its audience and make more money.

But Twitter sees the censorship tool as a way to ensure individual messages, or tweets, remain available to as many people as possible while it navigates a gauntlet of different laws around the world.

Before, when Twitter erased a tweet it disappeared throughout the world. Now, a tweet containing content breaking a law in one country can be taken down there and still be seen elsewhere.

I guess they’re selling this as an advance. But really it’s a way for countries to censor content inside their borders, without the messiness of having to kill the entire Internet like they did in Egypt briefly during the uprising.

Twitter does plan to share the content censored at Chilling Effects. And the fact that the rest of the world can see the tweets means that someone can bear witness. But this unquestionably makes censorship easier in individual countries. I don’t know how you could say otherwise.

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David Dayen

David Dayen