Twitter said late Wednesday it has blocked a German group’s account to users in that country at the request of police — the first time the company has implemented its targeted censorship policy.
The company informed users about the decision via a tweet from its general counsel Alex MacGillivray. He said Twitter never wants to withhold content, but that it’s “good to have tools to do it narrowly & transparently.”
According to the complaint, German police asked Twitter to close the account of the group, Besseres Hannover. Police in Germany, the request said, have disbanded the group, seized its assets and demanded that all its social networking accounts be closed immediately.
The BBC reported that the neo-Nazi group been accused of issuing threats to immigrants at schools in the Lower Saxony region in northwestern Germany. It has also been suspected of sending a threatening video to Germany’s social affairs minister, Aygul Ozkan, the report said.
The censorship policy, announced in January, allows for Twitter to block content in certain countries when asked to do so by local authorities. Twitter also said it would post documentation of these requests to Chilling Effects, a Web site that tracks government takedown requests sent to Web sites including Twitter and Google.
Twitter has said multiple times that its goal is to provide a free flow of information between users around the globe and that it only removes or blocks messages when asked to do so for legal reasons.
Several other large Internet companies, including Google and Facebook remove content to comply with individual countries’ laws regarding speech. In 2006, Yahoo lost its appeal challenging the French government’s right to order the company to remove Nazi memorabilia from its auction site to comply with a French law that prohibits pro-Nazi content. Most recently, Google made the decision to temporarily block an anti-Muslim video in Egypt, Libya, India, Indonesia and Afghanistan — raising questions about the role technology companies play as arbiters of free speech around the globe.
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