Twitter caves to global censorship, will block content on country-specific basis as required

A new Twitter policy which goes into effect today allows the social network "to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country," so that Twitter can further expand globally and "enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression."

The Twitter blog post announcing this news was titled "Tweets still must flow." And yes they must, but apparently in some countries, only if they're censored? Snip:

We haven’t yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld. As part of that transparency, we’ve expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page,, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

Hmmm. Maybe I'm missing something, but it's hard to see this as anything but a huge setback and disappointment, given Twitter's laudable history on human rights, privacy, and freedom of expression—and the critical role the service played in global popular uprisings over the last year.

As journalist Shannon Young notes, "It would've been too ironic for twitter to have made this country-based censorship policy announcement yesterday, on the #Jan25 anniversary." And, as Shannon points out, the announcement comes just days after Google announced new terms of user data collection.

Related (or not): remember about a month ago, when that Saudi prince dropped $300 million on a Twitter investment? Read the rest