Is Twitter Gaming Authoritarian Governments?

The Internet company has announced a new policy to block tweets in countries where the content of the message violates local law. Twitter points out there is a fairly obvious workaround.

What's the Latest Development?

Twitter has announced it will, if asked, block tweets in specific countries where the tweets' contents violate local law. Though the company has promised not to take any initiative on its own, only removing content as the result of a valid legal challenge. And like Google, Twitter will publish requests made by government agencies to remove content and alert its users when their accounts are under investigation or about to be shut down. Some industry observers say the move was necessary to establish offices in Germany, which bans neo-Nazi content.

What's the Big Idea?

Given Twitter's high-profile role during the Arab Spring, it is easy to feel disappointed by its new willingness to censor free speech. However, there may be a little slight of hand going on. Local law in specific foreign countries will determine what Twitter is willing to restrict but unlike most social media sites, Twitter does not depend on IP address identification to determine what country its users are in. Rather, it requires users to manually select what country they are in from a drop-down menu. It's a workaround Twitter is being vocal about.

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