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Tweet Censorship by Twitter Sparks Protests

January 31, 2012

The New York Daily News reported that Twitter announced this week on its company blog that it would be censoring tweets to comply with content restriction regulations in other countries. Tweets would be blocked in countries where their content is against the law, but shown in users’ feeds when read in other countries, where the content is legal.

It almost goes without saying that die-hard tweeters squawked at this news like, well, Twitter’s cute little bird icon. They staged an online protest with a #dontcensor campaign and a #TwitterBlackout boycott of the micro-blogging service. I hear them.

Twitter paid a significant role in the Egyptian revolution and other Arab Spring protests in 2010, the Iranian protests against the 2009 elections, and Tunisian revolution last year. Our country was founded on freedom of speech and expression. Without freedom of speech and expression, no one, in any country anywhere, will be able to affect change.

Free as a Bird?

In its blog post, Twitter said, “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.”

Twitter said it would clearly mark a tweet as deleted and send it to Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, to be added to its database of other tweets deleted due to censorship issues, as well as cease-and-desist and copyright infringement issues.

According to the Associated Press, Twitter’s new stance is similar to that of Google, and could help increase the number of global Twitter users from 100 million to more than 1 billion, particularly if it can enter China, where it is currently blocked. And I understand that Twitter wants to protect its employees in other countries that may restrict tweet content.

Germany and France, which restrict pro-Nazi content, were cited in the Twitter company blog as examples of countries where tweets may be censored. This isn’t about spreading hatred, though. This is about giving people a voice who have been denied a say in how their country is governed.

twitter logo by kullin

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