Twitter Censors Tweets but Pretends Not To [UPDATE]

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Twitter says that it's not censoring content even though it's clearly censoring content.

But let's back up a bit. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said Monday night that the microblogging site -- which has a rep for spreading revolution, disobedience, and Brits' bad jokes -- can basically filter tweets in countries with restrictions on free speech, so that offending posts don't break these nations' (prickish) laws, according to PC Magazine.

Twitter said last week that it can bar tweets that don't jibe with governments' respective restrictions. So, the mechanism will ban these tweets in these nations, but allow them to be displayed on the rest of the Web.

Dick told reporters: "The new policy will simply allow the company to transparently deal with valid government requests to remove certain content."

When the announcement was first made last week, Dick pointed to countries such as France and Germany, which don't allow pro-Nazi speech.

Hacktivist group Anonymous, however, suggested that Twitter was motivated by greed.

PC Mag reports that a Saudi prince invested $300 million in the website, prompting Anonymous to tweet: "What did ya'll think was going to happen when Saudi invested $300,000,000 in Twitter? Saudi's are NOT big on free speech!! #TwitterCensored."

Here's how Dick slickly sidesteps what is clearly censorship: "This is purely a reactive capability," he told reporters. "We don't proactively go do anything."

UPDATE: A Twitter spokesman reached out to Runnin' Scared and emphasized that the mechanism does not censor tweets preemptively: it would only take place after a nation issues a court order, and then "only after Twitter has reviewed that order and determined it is valid and applicable."

It sounds like a load of bullshit because it is. It still sounds like a load of bullshit because that's what censorship is.




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2 comments
Matt Graves
Matt Graves

Victoria: I work for Twitter. The premise of your piece is flat wrong -- Dick Costolo did not say Twitter could or would proactively filter Tweets. In fact, he said the opposite: that this is a reactive policy (ie we don't proactively monitor or filter Tweets), and that we only take action in response to a legal request that is both valid and applicable. His comments were widely reported by everyone from the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/onlin... to the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/.... The bullshit here is your failing to fact-check the story. 

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