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Twitter users urge boycott over censorship
Blackout of microblogging site proposed after firm says it will block tweets on geo-specific basis if legally necessary.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2012 13:07
 New policy will allow tweets that break a law in one country to be taken down there but still be seen elsewhere [AP]

The announcement by Twitter that it has plans to allow country-specific censorship has stirred anger among users of the microblogging service.

Twitter has said it can now block tweets on a country-by-country basis if legally required to do so, and some users have called for a boycott and organised an online protest in response on Saturday

The company depicted the new system as a step forward.

Previously, when Twitter erased a tweet, it vanished throughout the world. Under the new policy, a tweet breaking a law in one country can be taken down locally and still be seen elsewhere.

After having written a letter to Jack Dorsey, Twitter's founder, the France-based media-freedom advocate organisation Reporters Without Borders stated its support of Saturday's boycott.

A tweet on the organisation's official account early in the morning on Saturday read, "joining the #TwitterBlackout".

But the calls for a boycott have by some been seen as the wrong method to address the issue.

Anonymous, the international cyber-activist network, which has often been at the forefront of freedom-of-speech movements online, has said they will not be joining the blackout.

"We will not join the J28 #TwitterBlackout. It is more important than ever to spread info" the network said on its official Twitter account.

Policy defended

Twitter said it will post a censorship notice whenever a tweet is removed and will post the removal requests it receives from governments, companies and individuals at the website chillingeffects.org.

The critics are jumping to the wrong conclusions, Alexander Macgilliviray, Twitter's general counsel, said.

"This is a good thing for freedom of expression, transparency and accountability," he said. "This launch is about us keeping content up whenever we can and to be extremely transparent with the world when we don't. I would hope people realise our philosophy hasn't changed."

Some defenders of internet free expression came to Twitter's defence.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from New York City, Andrew McLaughlin, a former White House adviser on internet and innovation policies, said Twitter's announcement had been misunderstood by users of the service.

He said the new policy was principally a way to deal with the policies of European countries such as Germany against pro-Nazi and anti-Holocaust speech, and "so narrowly written and forceful in the requirement of a court order" that it is unlikely to get in the way of day-to-day use.

Similarly, Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: "Twitter is being pilloried for being honest about something that all internet platforms have to wrestle with. As long as this censorship happens in a secret way, we're all losers."

Nevertheless, in China, where activists have embraced Twitter even though it is blocked inside the country, the artist and activist Ai Weiwei expressed his unhappiness in a tweet: "If Twitter censors, I'll stop tweeting."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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