In the past, many countries have tried to pressure social media channels like Twitter and Facebook into blocking so-called “hate speech” on their sites. The calls for censorship were louder than ever after the recent “Innocence of Muslims” video sparked violent demonstrations in the Muslim world.
Twitter announced in January that it had the technology to block certain accounts and tweets on a country-by-country basis to comply with local laws. Nine months after setting up the technology, the Financial Times reported today that Twitter has complied with a German law enforcement request and blocked the account of a Neo-Nazi organization in Germany. Police have accused the group of sending racist material to schools and threatening public officials and immigrants.
Twitter’s chief lawyer Alex Macgillivray confirmed it in a tweet yesterday: “We announced the ability to withhold content back in Jan. We’re using it now for the first time re: a group deemed illegal in Germany.”
While Twitter is now using its regional blocking abilities to deter hate speech, it could also be used for other purposes in the near future, including enforcing copyright laws and stifling political dissent. Whatever the case, people always have their means of getting what they’re not supposed have.
Freedom-loving Twitter users can bypass local social media blocks and look at forbidden accounts and tweets by using proxy servers like the aptly titled Hide My Ass and Anonymouse. The website Public Proxy Servers offers a list of proxy servers to choose from as well. Through proxy servers, users can have an unfiltered Twitter experience. Of course, they can also be used for other things as well, such as accessing country-specific online video content and bypassing blocked websites.
Even though Twitter is trying to respect local laws by censoring certain tweets, technology that opens doors for users will make it harder for such policies to be fool-proof.