Twitter & Google v. Government Censors

Yul Brynner the King and I

Etc., etc., etc.

While Twitter’s recent announcement of its policy for complying with government censorship requests sparked a great outcry – particularly coming in the shadow of internet protests over SOPA – the reality is that Twitter selected a very measured approach that it would allow it to still comply with requests that are lawful in the countries in which Twitter does business.  Twitter’s announcement stated

Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. 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. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.

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. As part of that transparency, we’ve expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page,, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

The “censored” content is still on the web and can be accessed by changing geo-settings or by foreign sources retweeting it.

Google made a similar announcement albeit somewhat discretely.

The Twitter announcement has won praise in opposite extremes in Asia, with both Chinese free speech advocates and the Kingdom of Thailand (which prohibits criticism of its king by law) praising the new policy.

Which explains why Twitter has won praise from Chinese free speech advocates.  The move also was praised by the government of Thailand which

RESOURCES Twitter Wins New Fans Over Censorship, Wall Street Journal; EU Data Rules Worse Than SOPA?, Information Week (Jan 31, 2012); Twitter Blog Post; Thailand is First Country to Endorse Twitter’s Censorship Feature, The Next Web (Jan. 30); Google Starts Redirecting Blogspot Blogs to Country Specific URLs, Techhdows (Jan 31, 2012)


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