Twitter to Block Select Tweets in Some Countries

7:04 AM PST 01/27/2012 by Georg Szalai

The tech company says it will use its new ability to restrict content based on geography in countries with different ideas about freedom of expression, while others "differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there."

NEW YORK - Twitter said in a blog post that it now has the ability to block select tweets in specific countries and will use it in certain cases in a departure from its mostly hands-off approach in the past.

So far, the micro blogging service had to delete a tweet from its global network in the case of take-down requests from governments. 

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

But Twitter also cautioned that some countries "differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there."

Twitter explained that it could use its new capability to restrict user posts based on geography in countries with different ideas about freedom of expression. Giving examples of possible restrictions that it could cooperate with, the tech firm wrote: "Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content."

It emphasized though that it remains committed to freedom of expression. "One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice," Twitter said in its blog post. "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."

That final line was a reference to a blog post from a year ago in the context of the anti-government protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries, which were planned and coordinated via Twitter.  Back then, Twitter had signaled a hands-of approach in a blog post entitled "The Tweets Must Flow."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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