On the heels of a firestorm of controversy over anti-Semitic tweets in France, Twitter has for the first time banned access in Germany to a German group's account due to its alleged hate speech.
According to the Financial Times (registration required), the San Francisco-based microblogging service has blocked access in Germany to the Twitter account belonging to an organization known as "Besseres Hannover," which means "Better Hannover" in English. The group is said to be a neo-Nazi organization, reported Danny Sullivan of Marketingland.com. The public expression of Nazi views is illegal in Germany.
Twitter's steps toward blocking access to the Besseres Hannover account began when the company was asked by German Police to do so, according to documents uncovered by the group Chilling Effects. The police said that all the group's social network accounts had to be shut down.
Sullivan wrote yesterday that while it's still possible to access Besseres Hannover's Twitter account in the United States -- which CNET has confirmed -- those in Germany are unable to do so. "This is part of the wink-wink system of 'censorship' that's long been operated by Google," Sullivan wrote. "The search engine, similar to Google, may 'ban' pages from appearing in certain countries. But those outside those countries (or those able to pretend they are outside of it) can still access the content."
In a tweet last night, Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray alluded to the company's action against Besseres Hannover. Though he didn't name the group that had had its German access blocked, he wrote, "We announced the ability to withhold content back in Jan. We're using it now for the first time re: a group deemed illegal in Germany."