Twitter to block tweets locally, not globally

Rather than blocking content worldwide, Twitter will now block tweets only in countries that have generated the complaints due to local restrictions.

Twitter's general counsel defends new content takedown policy and says the company will notify the public when it happens.
Twitter's general counsel defends new content takedown policy and says the company will notify the public when it happens.

Twitter said today that it will withhold tweets from a country when there are local restrictions rather than having to block them globally.

"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," the company wrote on its blog. "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."

Until now, the only way Twitter could operate in those countries was to remove the purportedly objectionable content entirely from its site.

"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 post says. "We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why."

Twitter hasn't yet taken this action. But when the situation arises when a country requires it to withhold a tweet Twitter will attempt to inform the person who posted the tweet and "will clearly mark when the content has been withheld," according to the post.

The company has expanded its partnership with anti-censorship site on, where notices related to these takedown requests and activities will be posted.

Twitter, like any popular Web service, regularly gets requests from content owners to remove content, like this DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice from Universal Music Group.

In response to concerns that the move would give repressive regimes greater latitude to censor Web content, Twitter General Counsel Alex Macgillivray tweeted: "that's one of the reasons transparency is key. Keep an eye on and let us know if you think we go wrong."

In making this move, Twitter follows in the footsteps of Google which created a censored version of its Web search site specifically for China in 2006, and Yahoo, which was forced to block the sale of Nazi-and Ku Klux Klan-related memorabilia from its site in 2001.

(CNET's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.)

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