Late last night, Jan 27th, I saw some tweets about Twitter’s intention to increase their ability to censor tweets. I am largely anti-censorship – the main exception to this being the Daily Mail – and so I promptly tweeted my intention to sign up to the #twitterblackout whereby tweeters would not use the service for the whole of Jan 28th (today).
However, this morning I took the time to read around about more and see the arguments of some other twitterfolk, as well paying a bit more attention to Twitter’s own statement.
These I think are the salient points:
Twitter are not increasing levels of censorship. Up until now when they have been required to censor a tweet they have had to remove it globally.
Twitter will now be able to censor a tweet in a single country, thus leaving it available to the rest of the world. The improvement here is obvious.
Twitter won’t remove a tweet’s visibility in a given country just because that government requests it, i.e. it won’t be any easier. Correct legal process will have to be followed on each occasion.
Users will have visibility of where Twitter has been required to remove tweets here at Chilling Effects.
Finally, it appears that Twitter have allowed a loophole. For all users, twitter (the software) takes a guess at which country the user is based in. This can be overridden using existing functionality in the settings.
The upshot then is that governments will lose their ability to suppress tweeted information globally. That seems like a good thing to me and Twitter deserve credit for what they’ve done.