Twitter to selectively 'censor' tweets by country

Twitter Twitter said it would be transparent about which tweets had been removed.

Related Stories

Twitter has announced that it now has the technology to selectively block tweets on a country by country basis.

In its blog, Twitter said it could "reactively withhold content from users in a specific country".

But it said the removed content would be available to the rest of the world. Previously when Twitter deleted a tweet, it would disappear worldwide.

The decision has been criticised by the freedom of information advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.

The move comes at a time when Twitter is in the process of expanding its global business.

In its blog post, Twitter explained that its international growth meant entering countries "that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression", citing France or Germany which ban pro-Nazi content as examples.

"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 said in a blog post titled Tweets Must Flow.

"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," it added.

A number of Twitter users have expressed dismay over the move, with some pointing out the adverse impact it would have on free speech, especially outside the US.


Reporters Without Borders said it had concerns about the new measures.

"In the bigger scheme of things it just opens up the floodgates," spokeswoman Heather Blake told the BBC.

"It allows for Twitter or other internet organisations to censor things. Freedom of information, and freedom of the press can be compromised.

"It would be interesting to ask them what research they have done to show this will help in any way by censoring tweets within countries. Is it problematic, or are they getting pressured by certain organisations or certain regimes within the countries in order to continue to function there?"

In response to the criticism, the microblogging site said: "In general this would be a response to a valid legal request from a government. Our policies and our philosophy towards recognising freedom of expression has not changed - this is simply a clarification to how we respond to legal requirements."

Twitter, along with other social networking sites like Facebook, has played a vital - if disputed - role in organising everything from the Arab Spring to the London riots in 2011, according to the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.

However, the service - which said it had more than 100 million active users as of September 2011 - has also had to balance local laws with free speech in the process.

The blog statement acknowledged that Twitter would not be able to operate in all countries, saying: "Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there."

Twitter is blocked in China, where microblogging alternatives known as Weibo have surged in popularity in the past year.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    You can't blame Twitter

    This is happening because Governments and Corporate Lawyers are now active on the internet

    Get rid of government interference and make the internet a free trade zone (a REAL free trade zone)

    ...and all these problems disappear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    There's something wrong when social networks are spied upon, where the flow of information is sensored and the top 1% earn more than the bottom 50%. What will be the result of this moral and social decay?

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    First they came for the ..................... Where does it stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Twitter is for people who like to promote and listen to themselves speak

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    This relates to ACTA not this story

    Darrell Issa, a US senator

    "As a member of the US Congress, it's more dangerous than Sopa," he said.

    "It's not coming to me for a vote. It purports that it does not change existing laws. But once implemented, it creates a whole new enforcement system and will virtually tie the hands of Congress to undo it

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Oh dear! Money before humanity...again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    There goes free speech - Twitter may be pressured to 'ban' certain individuals or groups from relaying important information in 'delicate' situations some dictators may not favour - yikes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Anyone who using the Internet to intentionally do something illegal would use a proxy sever which would make their tweets appear from another country. Twitter obviously know this as will serious internet criminals, a lot of standard users won't know how. Only everyday computer users will be affected. Those who actually intend to do some illegal will simply bypass it. Pointless erosion of freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Yet more censorship on the Internet. The change may be small but what it signifies isn't.

    Is it so they can branch out into markets that won't accept freely and easily shared information? If so, freedom is again eroded because of big business greed. Why international companies can't be happy with multi millions or billions in turnover is beyond me. It shouldn't have to increase year on year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Would they post a comment saying something along the lines of "This tweet was removed because it broke the house rules", and if so could Mick the moderator sue them for pirating his catchphrase?

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    It's just not Twitter, but all Western media which is biased and censoring.

    One just has to compare how they jumped on the "Arab Spring" riots, whilst deliberately ignoring the Occupy Wall Street Protest! Why was one worth reporting about and the other not, in fact they tried to keep it as quiet as possible until they could not hide it any longer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    The rule of law includes the internet and all its messaging services.

    Most people don't want people organising riots or other criminal acts, stealing content that does not belong to them, spreading untrue rumours or libelling those who may not be able to answer back.

    Only children demand freedom from the consequences of their actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    People should stop using it, I'm sick of the media mentioning tweets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I don't use Twitter or FB due to the absolute tripe that gets posted there.Freedom of speech?Look at some of the comments posted on videos in U Tube, if thats free speech then its back to school for a majority who can only post expletives and come across as being thick as a plank.I wouldn't say remove those comments,they should stay to show the ignorance of those who posted them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Well that's good news at least when silencing dangerous radicals overseas I will always have my freedom of speech here to say things like:


  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Ahhhh. I know who's talking... Didn't Twitter recently got a MAJOR funding by some Arab prince. So that's what it was all about..

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    By sending my previous comment I learned that these comments are checked by “moderators” for content. I call it CENSORSHIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I don't understand why some people here blame Twitter for trying to comply with the law in a way that will least affect its users elsewhere? Do you expect cooperations just to ignore the laws of your country? Why should they then do it elsewhere?

    If you object to censorship, blame the politicians that make it possible.

    But expecting firms to take the law into their own hand is just silly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Aren't Twitter users known as Twits? Well, I could have told you this was coming. People have this rather quaint notion that big companies will act in a benign way. Anyway, 99% of the stuff posted on Twitter is gossipy rubbish, so it's hardly earth shattering news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Twitter it would appear has succumbed to the demands of authoritarian regimes and thus is complicit with them in suppressing free flow of information. Recent popular revolutions might not have been entirely posssible wihtout this. Twitter is more interested in access to big markets like China than guarding free expression. Twitter is a Wall Street corporation and thinks like one. Non-profits?


Page 1 of 7


More US & Canada stories



  • Peaky Blinders publicity shotBrum do

    Why is the Birmingham accent so difficult to mimic?

  • Oliver CromwellA brief history

    The 900-year-story behind the creation of a UK parliament

  • Image of Ankor Wat using lidarJungle Atlantis

    How lasers have revealed an ancient city beneath the forest

  • TheatreBard taste? Watch

    Are trailer videos on social media spoiling theatre?

  • Agents with the US Secret Service, such as this one, are responsible for guarding the presidentHard at work

    White House break-in adds to Secret Service woes

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.