Twitter Censoring Tweets: Right or Wrong?

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Is Twitter about to start widely censoring and withholding Tweets for content? That's the implication of a new blog post - by the social network giant itself.

Twitter claims it will "reactively withhold content from users in a specific country - while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why."

With those words earlier today, in a blog posting titled "Tweets still must flow" the management of Twitter may be heading down a slippery slope indeed.

Twitter Dead

Twitter's management believes that there is value in being able to filter in this way, but the problems with this course of action are too numerous to list.

  • Will filtering software be able to detect irony and sarcasm, for instance?
  • How will they decide when it should be employed and when to let it slide?
  • Doesn't it cause legal issues? By essentially taking on a newfound editorial responsibility and therefore become a lightning rod for lawsuits?
  • Twitter is cool because it serves all of humanity equally in real time. By allowing politics to triumph over freedom of speech, it loses relevance.

In response to negative news coverage, Twitter said in a statement to Forbes:

"What's new today is that we now have the ability, when we have to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, to keep that Tweet visible for the rest of the world. We hold freedom of expression in high esteem and work hard not to remove Tweets."

The key is that this is reactive only. It's on a case-by-case basis, in response to a valid request from an authorized entity. This is not a change in philosophy. Twitter does not mediate content, and we do not proactively monitor Tweets."

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