Twitter, according to its official description, promises to offer up the "latest information about what you find interesting." There's now a caveat to that, however: The social media service will offer up the latest information about what you find interesting -- and what your government deems acceptable.
Twitter announced yesterday that the company now has the ability to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis, allowing the popular microblogging site to comply with local governments' request to remove or block certain 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," Twitter wrote in a blog post. "We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why."
The company noted that it has not yet exercised the option to withhold content from users in specific countries.
Once it does, it will alert its users to censored tweets by replacing the text of the post with a grayed-out tweet that reads, "This Tweet from @username has been withheld in: Country. Learn more." (See screenshot's here.)
In its blog post announcing the changes, Twitter focused on its new ability to remove some tweets. Yet a Twitter Help Center post expanding on this tool noted that the site could also block access to entire accounts. "[I]f you see a grayed-out user in your timeline [...] or elsewhere on Twitter [...] access to that particular account has been withheld in your country," Twitter wrote.
Twitter users have been up in arms about the change, which many see as incompatible with Twitter's professed commitment to openness and a policy that has the potential to undermine Twitter's role in political movements, such as the pro-democracy protests that rocked Egypt last year.
"It's an affront on a free society & could be a PR disaster for Twitter after it's [sic] much praised role in the #Arabspring, tweeted @globalvybe.
Some users are attempting to organize a "#TwitterBlackout" on January 28 and intend to boycott Twitter in protest of the changes.
(Via the HuffPo)