In a carefully worded blog post yesterday, Twitter announced a new capability to censor tweets by country. The goal, it said, is to conform to laws in some countries — such as the prohibition of pro-Nazi content in Germany — by removing content for only users in those areas without having to remove it globally.
Titled "Tweets Still Must Flow," it referenced a post from almost exactly a year ago that spelled out a more courageous-sounding policy on censorship.
"We don't always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content," read the original post "The Tweets Must Flow," from Jan. 20, 2011.
Yesterday's post, in comparison, was more nuanced and compromising. "As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," it read.
The news took a little while to filter through the Twitterverse, with muted reaction for most of the day. "Surprised there isn't more outrage about #tiwttercensorship — although maybe there is and tweets are being blocked," quipped one poster.
But by this morning (Jan. 27), a protest was under way. Users aren't seeing it as a benefit that Twitter will remove content in only certain places. Instead they are fuming that Twitter has, in effect, announced its official censorship policy. (The company says that it hasn't yet used the new censoring capability. And if it does, it promises to be "transparent" about the censorship and try to let people know that it is occurring.)
Users are now calling to boycott the service for one day, tomorrow (Jan. 28). A large chunk of the tweets supporting the boycott feature Arabic script. And many reference the regimes that may be requiring the censorship.
"So now Twitter begins to censor the Tweets, effects of tat[sic] Saudi businessman guy investing?" read one tweet, referring to billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal's $300 million investment in the service last month.
Supportive tweets are also flowing in from Germany and Spanish-speaking countries. And some prominent accounts associated with the Anonymous hacktivists, such as Anon_Central, with nearly 100,000 followers, are joining the boycott.