Twitter Censors Neo-Nazis in Germany, But Tweets Are Still Visible

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
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Twitter uses country-specific blocking for the first time

Twitter has blocked access to a neo-Nazi account to users in Germany, but it continues to be viewable to web users around the world. [Update: Since this story was published, Twitter is now censoring anti-Semitic tweets in France].

The German move is the first time that Twitter has exercised its ability to block content on a country-by-country basis, a feature which it announced in January.

Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray announced the block in a tweet on the microblogging site, along with a link to the request from the Hannover police.

Twitter Censors Target Neo-Nazis

Twitler by Nozzman
An unrelated cartoon by Nozzman

“We announced the ability to withhold content back in Jan. We’re using it now for the first time re: a group deemed illegal in Germany,” he wrote. “Never want to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly & transparently.”

The group in question is Besseres Hannover (Better Hannover), members of which have been charged with inciting racial hatred and the creation of a criminal organisation.

“[Besseres Hannover] is disbanded, its assets are seized and all its accounts in social networks have to be closed immediately,” said the police. “It is the task of the Polizeidirektion Hannover (Hannover Police) to enforce the ban.

“I ask you to close this account immediately and not to open any substitute accounts for the organisation ‘Besseres Hannover’.”

When announcing the feature, Twitter said it needed to censor tweets in order to continue its international expansion. The site is routinely blocked in a number of countries such as China and the announcement sparked protests from those who believed it was against freedom of speech.

However the company renewed its commitment “to defend and respect each user’s voice” and declared “The Tweets must continue to flow.”


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