Following the lead of Google and Facebook, Twitter says it can now block specific tweets on a country-by-country basis when their contents break local law.
“Twitter said that it created the tool to censor by country in order to prevent having to remove illegal content from its global network,” The Washington Post reports. “The company said that as it continues to grow globally, it’s had to rethink its policies on free expression.”
“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,” recalls CNet.
Despite the precedents, however, Econsultancy suggests that Twitter is “walking a fine line in terms of freedom of expression.”
Under the headline, “Twitter Commits Social Suicide,” a less-forgiving Forbes thinks that Twitter just “went over to the dark side and may well have dug their own grave.”
Conversely, recognizing that Twitter’s new policy might prove more forgiving to particular regions, the Los Angeles Times writes: “The wings of some Twitter users may be clipped a bit less going forward.”
Despite promises of transparency by Twitter, GigOm says the company “has just opened itself up to all kinds of conspiracy theories about what tweets it is or isn’t withholding -- and on whose behalf it is removing them.”
Likewise, “the obvious question here is what Twitter will do when freedom fighters, like those who participated in the Arab Spring last year, tweet their dissent or use the service to organize protests,” writes Computerworld.
Yet, Twitter thinks that's an unlikely scenario, according to Danny Sullivan, writing in Marketing Land. Authoritarian governments usually either ignore Twitter or shut down the entire service, the company says.
As Mashable points out, Twitter’s decision comes one day after it announced plans to become available in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu -- i.e., “languages … spoken in many countries associated with strict government media restrictions.”