Twitter to censor tweets in specific countries

The service has been used to post updates on government repression during protests

Twitter now has the ability to censor tweets in specific countries, the social networking service announced on Thursday.

“We give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world,” an entry on the Twitter blog reads.

“We haven’t yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld.”

Chilling Effects has partnered with Twitter to post notices on its website of when Twitter blocks content. Already, it lists content that has been blocked due to violating the US Digital Millennial Copyright Act (DMCA).

Kim Heitman from Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) said Chilling Effects “is a useful reminder that official censorship promotes nervous self-censorship, and restricts the ability of minorities to have a voice.”

Heitman added: “There’s no reason to believe Australia would be on the list of uncensored countries – our laws against restricted content, the criminalisation of hyperlinks, the crushing costs of defamation litigation and the many ways aggrieved parties can attack controversial opinion in tribunals and the workplace make Australia a limited free-speech jurisdiction.”

US organisation, Demand Progress, has issued an ‘open letter to Twitter’ about the changes calling for Twitter to remain “an open platform.”

Twitter's blog entry states that one of its “core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice.”

A spokesperson for the Internet Society of Australia said that "it is ... troubling that social media sites, such as Twitter, might be embedding potentially overly restrictive regimens for censorship. These sorts of policies might sound appropriate, and even at times be compatible with cultural expectations, but at the other end of the spectrum we see things that harm: Either directly through reinforcing tyrannical regimes or damaging health messages."

"I'm not surprised that Twitter might be bowing to pressure from governments around the world to censor according to government whims, but the main problem with this sort of thing is that it means the harder core of those whose actions we might really want to see prevented go further underground," the spokesperson said. "They simply employ stronger encryption, anonymise and hide."

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