Twitter Will Block Messages in Certain Countries if they Violate Norms or Beliefs

Indicted 12-Year Old with BlackberryA 12-year old boy departs from a court in Manchester, where he participated in robberies coordinated on social networks. Photo by Nigel Roddis of Reuters.

Twitter Will Block Messages in Certain Countries if they Violate Norms or Beliefs
El País: Twitter bloqueará en algunos países los mensajes que violen normas o creencias
The company announces its social network has entered some countries with different ideas about the “countries” of freedom of expression and should be coherent with them.
El País staff report from Mexico City, January 27, 2012

Full liberty no longer fits inside a tweet.

A tweet is a message of 140 characters or less that can be written on Twitter if the user is a member of this social network, which counts for more than 100 million tweeters throughout the world.

But these 140 characters cannot include – or will no longer include – all the liberty in the world, because Twitter has just announced that as of now, it is willing to block messages that “authorized entities” of certain countries consider offensive or illegal.

Twitter has announced the new measure on its corporate blog. It is a short, generic message with a basic idea: “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 social network explains that it has expanded to many countries, some of which have different ideas about the “contours” of freedom of expression.

The company, in this public note, does not define very clearly what kind of content could be blocked, who qualify as “authorized entities” (an expression included in its usage policy), and finally, what requirements Twitter will establish for hypothetical petitions from these “entities”, be they governments or other organizations, to block messages in certain territories.

Until now, when Twitter censured a message, it could no longer be seen anywhere in the world. Now it has refined its process, so it can vet messages in only the countries that ask for vetting, leaving them visible to the rest of the world. For the moment, the measure has not been put into practice. The business has announced that when it vets a message, it will inform the affected user, and those who cannot access the content will be informed of the blockage and the reason for it.

The only example the social network gives of a censurable message is pro-Nazi content in countries where the National Socialists ruled, like France or Germany, which now have laws prohibiting this kind of message.

In its user policy, Twitter specifies that it is trying to respect “local laws”, but it does not let users know what local laws will prevail over users’ freedom of expression.

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