Twitter has been the backbone of revolutions, regime change, and much more. The ability to spread information around the world in an instant has changed the way people disseminate vital information. The free flow of this information, and the ability to “Retweet” it, literally puts the world in the palm of our hands. To put it simply: Twitter has changed the world.
Now, it appears that the world has changed Twitter. Twitter announced Thursday that it can now block tweets, as well as individual accounts, from appearing to users in specific countries, and that it may use the feature to comply with governments’ request to censor information. Before, Twitter could only block tweets and accounts globally.
As it said on the Twitter Blog:
As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.
Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.
So Twitter users are banding together for a Twitter Blackout – with hashtag #TwitterBlackout – on January 28th, 2012. This irony is that Twitter helped spread the news about the online blackouts in protest of the SOPA and PIPA legisation – and now ACTA – and now the service itself is being protested. Stay tuned to see what impact this has on the microblogging site’s traffic, advertising, etc.