Everybody flipped out on Thursday when Twitter announced it had developed the capability to censor tweets in specific countries, should that country's government require it by law. "I wndr ow gud thy'll b at viltring owt ths knd uv bllsht!" one Huffington Post commenter wrote cryptically -- probably in an attempt to get around the comment moderators. Some were more sober in their survey of the news. "Censors never give up, and emerge out of every crack," an Atlantic Wire commenter noted. But digging into the details of Twitter's new ability to block tweets reveals that the new censorship-enabling technology is actually pretty easy to get around. We bet they planned it that way.
"We do not proactively monitor or filter any content," Twitter representative Matt Graves told The Atlantic Wire. That's because Twitter doesn't really care about censoring anything. It cares about appeasing censorship-happy governments just enough to get them off their backs. "This is a reactive policy: that is, we will withhold specific content only when required to so in response to a valid and applicable legal request," Graves continued. It would rather operate in those countries with this easy-to-get-around rule than shut down their service completely.
On principle, censorship is abhorrent. But in practical terms, there's a pretty easy way to get around the whole ordeal. Twitter bases its censorship on a tweeter's location, as we explained yesterday, which users can change by following the instructions over here. Or, the gist is below.
That "worldwide" tab is misleading, however. Setting it to "worldwide" will not magically open to gates to all tweets, as The Next Web discovered, Twitter will reset it back to the location associated with one's IP address. But, if one wants to see a censored tweet in their own country, said tweeter could just switch up the location to a country with different censorship laws. Pretty easy.
It seems Twitter made a simple work-around on purpose. This new policy is more about getting governments to leave them alone, than actually censoring tweets.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.