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Twitter blocks neo-Nazi group, uses country-specific censoring tool

October 18, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • A screenshot of Twitter's "Country Withheld Content" page on the company's page center.
A screenshot of Twitter's "Country Withheld Content"… (Twitter )

Twitter is finally using a country-specific censorship tool that caused online protests when it was first announced in January.

The social network's general counsel announced the move Wednesday night on Twitter, saying the San Francisco company was "withholding" content of a German neo-Nazi group.

The account and tweets from the group, Besseres Hannover, can no longer be seen in Germany although it is still visible throughout the rest of the world.

Twitter censored the neo-Nazi group's account after receiving a letter from officials of the German state of Lower-Saxony, which the social network posted online.

"The Ministry of the Interior of the State of Lower-Saxony in Germany has banned the organisation 'Besseres Hannover,'" the letter reads. "It is disbanded, its assets are seized and all its accounts in social networks have to be closed immediately."

Coincidentally, Twitter foreshadowed its first use of country-specific censorship when it announced the tool in a blog post back in January. The site explained that it has to abide by the laws of other countries, some of which have different standards for freedom of speech than the U.S.

"Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there," Twitter said in January. "Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content."

The January announcement sparked outcries from some Twitter users and led to topics like #TwitterCensorship and #TwitterBlackout to trend. Some, including online hacktivist group Anonymous, called on people to boycott Twitter and skip using the site for a day. 

Now that the tool is being used, no such topics are trending. Not yet, at least.

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