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Brazil sues Twitter users over speed trap and traffic tweets

As Brazil's attorney general files an injunction to block tweets and suspend accounts of Twitter users warning people about speed traps, the question is will Twitter work with the Brazilian government and use its new tweet removal policy?

Twitter might have to decide quickly whether to start its new policy of removing tweets on a country-by-country basis.

An image displayed on the Reporters Without Borders Web site. Screenshot by CNET

Today, the attorney general of Brazil filed a preliminary injunction to block tweets and suspend the accounts of Twitter users who use the social-networking site to warn people about radar locations, speed traps, and DUI checkpoints in the Brazilian state of Goias, according to the news group O Globo.

The Brazilian government claims that these Twitter users are putting people in danger since police can't properly do their jobs and that the users are also breaking the country's penal, criminal, and traffic codes. If the attorney general is granted the injunction, people who violate it could be fined up to $290,000 per day.

One such traffic-tweeting Twitter user, @RadarBlitzGo with 11,960 followers, tweeted its account suspension earlier this afternoon. Others like @LeiSecaRJ with 287,181 followers, and the less widely followed @PaznoTransitoGO are tweeting objections to the lawsuit.

Just over a week ago, Twitter announced that it would selectively remove tweets and block Twitter users at governments' requests. There was strong opposition to this policy and many people said it was akin to censorship.

Twitter said, however, that this policy involved more freedom of information because although the tweets would be blocked in that country, the rest of the world would be able to view the tweets. Until now, the only way Twitter could operate in those countries was to remove the content entirely from its site.

Having the outside world see tweets can be helpful for movements, like the Arab Spring uprising where dissidents sent out information instantaneously despite Internet shutdowns, but it doesn't seem very useful for people to know about speed traps in Brazil.

Twitter has not yet acted on its new policy, but when it does it says it "will clearly mark when the content has been withheld," and post it to the anti-censorship site Twitter told CNET it has nothing to share at this time on whether it will work with the Brazilian government to block users and remove the tweets.