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Twitter's country-specific blocking brings hazards and hope

Stephen Lawson | Jan. 30, 2012
Twitter's move to comply with government requests and block tweets in specific countries could blunt its edge as a political tool, but there may be an upside in helping to unmask censorship, some privacy experts said Friday.

"Most companies approach this issue by preventing certain content from being shown to users in the countries where it is illegal. That is our approach as well," Facebook said in a statement sent via email Friday.

Twitter already removes some tweets in response to requests based on copyright issues. It now provides the text of those requests on a Twitter section of the Chilling Effects site.

Twitter's expansion into other countries, with actual operations on the ground, is at the heart of the issue, according to Newman and Galperin. Twitter currently has operations in the U.S., the U.K. and Japan.

"Once Twitter starts opening offices in other countries, it is bound by their laws, including their somewhat different ideas about what you can and can't publish online," Galperin said. Once the company has employees in a given country, defying the government could put their employees at risk, she said.

"This creates a hugely difficult ethical question for Twitter and for Internet companies in general," Newman said.


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