Two U.S. Senators want Twitter to give more details on how and when it will censor content when requested to do so by foreign governments.

"We understand that Twitter has an obligation to comply with legal requests that do not violate human rights," Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote in a letter to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. "And we appreciate that you are taking steps to minimize the impact of censorship. However, your announcement leaves important questions unanswered."

Last month Twitter said it would censor some tweets in certain countries if requested to do so by that country's government. The company followed up the announcement by saying users could read censored tweets if they changed the location setting of their account to Worldwide.

According to the policy, users in countries where tweets are blocked will be notified when they have been denied access. People trying to view tweets in the country where they are censored would receive a message saying the content had been blocked.

Presumably if someone were in Germany, where posts about pro-Nazi content is banned by law, they could change their country setting in Twitter to the United States and be able to view the blocked content. The page notes that the manual override is there for users whose country has been misidentified.

But Coburn and Durbin want more details on the new policy. Among the details they are seeking:

  • The exact procedure for handling a request from a foreign government to censor content.
  • Whether or not Twitter will keep a log of those requests
  • Who in the company makes the final decision on whether or not to withhold tweets.

The company has yet to respond to the letter's questions. We asked Twitter to comment and will update when they get back to us.