By Steven Mostyn
There are rumbles of user discontent building at Twitter today after the micro-blogging service announced its intent to prevent the posting of messages if and when a host country takes exception to specific content.
“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 revealed in a statement posted to its official blog.
The statement cites European countries such as Germany and France as examples for the decision, both of which exercise a stringent ban against the online posting of pro-Nazi content.
“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 consent has been withheld,” it said.
However, as a result of Twitter’s announcement, many users have suggested it won’t be long before its value as a platform for free speech will be compromised and it will be slapped by accusations of censorship.
Offering a more levelheaded assessment of Twitter’s decision, Jillian York, the director of international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the company is “doing its best in a tough situation”.
Speaking in a CNN report, York said Twitter only has two options when tasked to remove content by a host country:
“[It can either] fail to comply, and risk being blocked by the government in question, or comply (read: censor),” she offered. “And if they have ‘boots on the ground’, so to speak, in the country in question? No choice.”
It is, of course, possible that Twitter’s apparent willingness to bow to pressures exerted by certain countries is a way to elbow its way into the vast Chinese market, where it is currently blocked entirely.