Last week, Twitter announced it would block tweets in countries where certain content is illegal. From the company’s official blog:
As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.
Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to 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.
Today, the New York Times’ Somini Sengupta reports on the inevitable backlash and calls for a Twitter boycott:
[I]n a sort of coming-of-age moment, Twitter announced that upon request, it would block certain messages in countries where they were deemed illegal. The move immediately prompted outcry, argument and even calls for a boycott from some users.
Twitter in turn sought to explain that this was the best way to comply with the laws of different countries. And the whole episode, swiftly amplified worldwide through Twitter itself, offered a telling glimpse into what happens when a scrappy Internet start-up tries to become a multinational business.
Interestingly, most of Twitter’s 100 million (and growing) users are not located in the U.S., which certainly places them in a challenging position when it comes to managing the free flow of information.