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Twitter has introduced country-specific censorship of tweets.

Walking a fine line in terms of freedom of expression, the company says it will introduce the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country – while keeping it available to the rest world.

Twitter has also created a way to communicate with users when content is withheld and why. It says it hasn’t had to do so yet, but if and when it does, it will "attempt to let the user know". 

Most of the tweets deleted previously have contained child pornography.

In a blog post Twitter refers to a previous post called The Tweets Must Flow from co-founder Biz Stone and Alex Macgillivray - who’s in charge of policy, trust and safety. 

In it, they discuss the site’s position of expression of freedom.

The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact … 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.” 

They go on to say that:

We will continue to increase our transparency in this area and encourage you to let us know if you think we have not met our aspirations with regard to your freedom of expression.”

So, it seems that that day has come. One reason the service is believed to censor tweets is that if Twitter defies the laws of a nation where its employees reside, then the individuals could face arrest.

Also as part of today's announcement, Twitter has expanded its partnership with Chilling Effects to create Chillingeffects.org/twitter, which makes it easier to find notices related to the site.

Businesses are asked to submit any copyright infringement issues to the @chillfirehose feed for review by Chilling Effects, but presumably if there were a more serious issue at hand, this new censorship might still apply to a brand.

Twitter goes on to say as that as it grows, it will encounter different ideas about freedom of expression. Like Google and Facebook, Twitter has great levels of responsibility in terms of being protecting users' personal data, while at the same time working with different market’s interpretations of culture and human rights.  

Twitter was cited as playing a central role leading up to the revolutionary movements that toppled dictators in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year.

As Al Jazeera highlights, this was a role that Twitter and other public figures embraced, most notably, Mark Pfeifle, a former US national security adviser. In the summer of 2009, Pfeifle called for the Twitter to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in response to the role he said the service played in Iran's Green Movement.

This censorship means that Twitter follows in the footsteps of Google which created a censored version of its site specifically for China and Yahoo, which was forced to block the sale of Nazi-and Ku Klux Klan-related memorabilia in 2001.

Vikki Chowney

Published 27 January, 2012 by Vikki Chowney

Vikki is head of community at TMW. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+

249 more posts from this author

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