Twitter is giving itself the prerogative of withholding content in certain countries, even while keeping the same content available for other parts of the world as it may deem fit. The only way for it until now to censor was universally eliminating the material from the platform. The new change means text thought to be inappropriate by a national government can be withheld selectively in that country.
When the company receives a request from a nationally authorized agency, it will take steps in accordance with proper laws and its terms of service. In such an eventuality, affected users will receive a notification of censorship of either a tweet or account. Apparently as part of its effort to maintain transparency, Twitter has expanded its partnership with Chilling Effects in order to share a new page (http://chillingeffects.org/twitter) that will make it simpler to find relevant notices.
A section of media experts feel this form of selective censorship can prove to be a blow to the premise of freedom and independence of speech online. It will affect the Twitter usage market, particularly in those countries with a high recurrence of anti-US activities on the Web. Of course, there are many other countries across the globe that might now try to curb the information flow on Twitter, if and when it becomes troublesome to them. Just about a year ago, Twitter had posted:
“The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact … almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits.”
As is obvious, the company does not want to hurt its global expansion prospects. It acknowledges the fact that as it continues to expand internationally, it will foray into countries, which might harbor different ideas about the basic parameters of freedom of expression. Some will differ so much from its own ideas, ‘we won’t be able to even exist there’, the site claims. Others for cultural or historical reasons might want to restrict certain content. Even while doing so, Twitter assures that it has built in a way for communicating to users if and when content is withheld, and also tell why it’s doing so!
An official Twitter post mentions that the company hasn’t used this ability as yet, but when it is required to hold back a Tweet in any country, the network will try and let the user know, and also will mark clearly when it has been withheld. It mentions in an official announcement:
“One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can’t. The Tweets must continue to flow.”
The question to be asked is: Should Twitter be making compromises on the critical issue of censorship?