Thoughts on Twitter Censorship

As the entire blogosphere probably knows by now, Twitter has announced that they will censor tweets on a per-country basis when requested by said countries.

Censorship requests will be tracked and made public via Chilling Effects.

Twitter’s rationale for this move is that otherwise, countries would simply outlaw or bring down Twitter within their territories, whereas with this new policy only the offending tweets will be removed (and only within the offended countries).

Transparently reporting every censorship request would theoretically place Twitter outside the fallout zone and put the blame squarely in the offending parties.

But put yourself in Joe Totalitarian’s shoes for a second. Would you want your censorship requests filed and openly available for all the world to see?

While Germany might not mind going on the record censoring pro-Nazi tweets, totalitarian regimes would much rather go nuclear on Twitter under the lame-but-all-inclusive excuse of “people were using Twitter to plot against the legitimate government” than asking Twitter to selectively censor all tweets with the word “democracy” in them.

Twitter’s move may open the door for more transparency in modern democracies; what it will do for those countries were freedom of speech really needs a helping hand remains to be seen.

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