Twitter's wings have received a bit of a clipping with the first signs of mass regional censorship being hinted at by the micro-blogging platform.
In a blog post entitled "Tweets still must flow" the company has announced that it now has the ability to remove tweets on a country by country basis; rather than a blanket removal as was in place before.
"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," it stated. "Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi 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.
"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."
The move has, understandably, caused quite a fuss online. Despite it being an obvious tool for Twitter to stick to national laws (as it has struggled in the past to do so - take the super-injunction issues in the UK for example) some users are seeing it as a removal of free speech.
Many of the anti-government tweets during the Arab Spring may have been deemed illegal for example and there is concern that online-led protest will be hindered in the future. However, Twitter has always had the power to remove tweets universally, so there's no reason to assume it is going to start agenda-setting now.
Time will tell just how the changes pan-out but we don't think it's time to panic just yet.
To learn more and to keep track of removed tweets check out chillingeffects.org/twitter.
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