Twitter can censor tweets by country; users react

On January 28, some people decide not to use Twitter in protest

Users of microblogging website Twitter react to news of the organisation possessing technology able to selectively censor tweets in certain countries

Twitter has been accused of censoring information by users after a blog post entitled "The Tweets Must Still Flow", which said it will reactively remove tweets from users' timelines in certain countries, although making it available for the rest of the world.

The blog post assures users it doesn't aim to filter out the tweets before they appear online, but "withhold specific content only when required to do so in response to what we believe to be a valid and applicable legal request."

Users, in response to this, have threatened a one-day blackout of Twitter usage on January 28, using hashtags like #TwitterCensored and #TwitterBlackout to spread the word.

The announcement came right after the one-year anniversary of the Egypt uprisings, where social media websites like Twitter were used heavily. An update to the blog post states: "There’s no magic to the timing of this feature. We’ve been working to reduce the scope of withholding, while increasing transparency, for a while."

However, the post from Twitter implies this technology helps freedom of expression rather than limit it. Previously, when the microblogging site had to remove tweets (illegal tweets and/or spam), the message would disappear globally. With the current technology, Twitter said: "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."

In an update the post, it added: "Besides allowing us to keep Tweets available in more places, it also allows users to see whether we are living up to our freedom of expression ideal."

"We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why," the post said. When a tweet is withheld in a certain region, users trying to view the censored tweet will see an alert box saying: "Tweet withheld" or "@Username withheld" in place of the affected Tweet or account.

However, some users are pointing out the organisation is giving users ways to not be affected by this move. For example, setting the location to "Worldwide" in the Profile settings means users can see all the tweets on their timelines without any form of censorship.

It's also possible Twitter is using this method to gain access in countries where it has been blocked - in China, for example. It stated in the post that some countries have ideas of their own about freedom of expression, and said: "Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there."

What are your thoughts on the censorship move by Twitter? Are you protesting by not using the microblogging site today? Let us know; drop us a comment or connect to us via Twitter, or if you prefer not to, then find us on Facebook.