Posted on January 30, 2012 by Jennifer Pointer

Twitter, the social network that has been the hero website of several international revolutions recently picked a REALLY bad week to clarify its policy on international censorship.


The online community was just beginning to settle down a bit from the SOPA / PIPA boycott, in which many large websites "went dark" for a day to protest government censorship of the web, when Twitter decided to announce that it could now censor Tweets by country, and the world screamed "WHAT?!"


Deep breaths, everyone.  Deep breaths.  This isn't what it sounds like.


Twitter is an international website (as are most websites, now), and as such is required to obey the laws of the countries in which it operates.  If a foreign government orders a take-down of certain content (e.g. for copyright violations, decency laws, etc.), then Twitter has no choice, really, but to comply.   It doesn't matter what the company believes about free speech in a case like that. 


Twitter was simply letting users know that in the past when this happened, it had to take down the content globally.  That meant that if the land of Genovia deemed all Tweets about Anne Hathaway to be illegal and demanded that Twitter remove them (that's a Princess Diaries joke), Twitter would have to take those tweets down, and NO ONE would be able to see them.  Now, Twitter's technology has been upgraded to allow a country-specific take-down, so that if such a demand were to be received, those tweets would simply be blocked in Genovia.  The rest of the world would still be able to see them and protest the take-down.  Because you know we would have a lively #FreeAnneHathaway hashtag feed going in about half a minute, as well as #BoycottGenovia. Because that how we, Tweet.


Mashable has a great explanation of how the new policy might help those wishing to use the site for political and social activism - see Relax: Twitter's new Censorship Policy is Actually going to be Good for Activists, and see Twitter Adopts Country-Specific Censorship Regime - How will that Work? on BoingBoing.


So, the #TwitterBlackout campaign might have been a tad unnecessary.  Especially since the whole idea was to boycott Twitter, and it doesn't make much sense to stage a boycott on the website you're threatening to boycott.  ;-)


Happy Monday, everyone!

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