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Freedom fears over Twitter’s by-country ‘censorship’

Micro-blogging service Twitter has announced that it will filter tweets on a country-by-country basis due to differing legal demands. Critics were quick to accuse the company of attacking freedom of online speech to make extra profit.

Individual tweets can now be shown in some countries but blocked in others, the internet giant said in a blog post on Thursday. The goal is to comply with legislation under different jurisdictions, while not deleting offending content globally. Twitter offers the example of France and Germany, where public pro-Nazi statements are banned.

“Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. 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 statement says.

Twitter adds that it will do its utmost to keep its filtering actions transparent and notify users, whose tweets are being blocked, of why this is being done.

Coming at a sensitive time shortly after the global internet strike against the SOPA/PIPA bills, deemed a bane on online freedoms, the move could not but draw criticism over ‘self-censorship’. Forbes contributor Mark Gibbs called it ‘social suicide’ on Twitter’s part, going on to speculate that the company now probably filters all new tweets for keywords like “Nazi” and automatically bans those deemed suspicious.

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