Home [UPDATED] Is Twitter Helping Users Get Around Its New Censorship Rules?

[UPDATED] Is Twitter Helping Users Get Around Its New Censorship Rules?

Some of the messages Twitter is sending about its new policy on censoring tweets in certain countries seem ambiguous at best.

Perhaps the biggest piece of confusion for people trying to make sense of yesterday’s announcement is Twitter’s inclusion of a link with instructions on how to change your country setting. The change would appear to at least temporarily allow some users to read messages banned in their country by overriding the IP-address detection mechanism Twitter uses to assign a country to a user.

“We also offer the option to set your country to ‘worldwide’ – which will show all public Tweets.”

According to

the policy

, users in countries where tweets are blocked will be notified when they have been denied access. That presumably means if I were in Germany, where posts about pro-Nazi content is banned by law, I could change my country in Twitter settings 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 as one commenter noted last night, it seems as if “Twitter is trying to pull of a weird balancing act here. I don’t know if they can.”

We’ve asked Twitter for clarification and will update as soon as we hear back from them.

Update: “We use the IP address to identify a user’s country, and give the user the option to correct his or her country in settings if our system has misidentified it,” said Twitter spokesperson Jodi Olson. “We also offer the option to set your country to ‘worldwide’ – which will show all public Tweets.”

Twitter is trying to make it clear that it will only censor tweets if it receives “a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity.”

There are other questions about the policy as well. For example, even though a blog post and support pages say these rules are being enacted so Twitter can continue to “make our services available to users everywhere,” but Olson told us in an email Thursday “there are still countries to which we will not go.”

Update: “We want to reach every person on the planet, and to make Twitter available to people everywhere as a service,” Olson clarified on Friday. “The distinction is there are still countries to which Twitter will not operate in as a business.”

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