Twitter uses new 'country-withheld content' rule to block neo-Nazi group tweets in Germany

First time the website has withheld content in a specific country

The social media site Twitter has blocked posts from a neo-Nazi group from view in Germany at the request of the local authorities, in the site's first ever instance of country specific censorship.

A spokesman said that the account @hannoverticker, which belongs to the far-right group Besseres Hannover (Better Hanover) was blocked in Germany, where its content is considered illegal. Users in other countries, however, are still free to read it.

While Twitter is known to be reluctant to censor content for fear of scaring away users, the move has prompted criticism of the German law under which the group is banned, rather than the social media site.

"Twitter is a private company, and while it has a decent record on free speech, it cannot be expected to go to the barricade for every issue. Moreover, Germany is a huge and wealthy market," said Pádraig Reidy of Index on Censorship.

He added: "Twitter has complied with the law, and been open about it. The German law itself is where the problem lies. Banning far-right views and Nazi-inspired historical revisionism is anachronistic for a modern liberal democracy. And these laws are persistently pointed to and mocked when the EU attempts to lecture the world on free speech."

Besseres Hannover was banned by Lower Saxony's state government last month on the grounds that it was promoting Nazi ideals in an attempt to undermine German's democracy.

The account is invisible to German internet browsers but remains visible elsewhere. Twitter announced the news today morning on its own site.

Twitter has little choice when ordered to comply with local laws. Its country specific blocking is an attempt to limit any damage done in the minds of those who would rather see the site place freedom of speech above local censorship laws.

Its lawyer Alex Macgillivray wrote: "Never want to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly & transparently."

He later posted a message which read: "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."

In a post on its site, the company wrote: "if we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.

"We have found that transparency is vital to freedom of expression… And, we have expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to publish not only DMCA notifications but also requests to withhold content -- unless, similar to our practice of notifying users, we are legally prohibited from doing so.

"We strongly believe that the open and free exchange of information has a positive global impact, and that the Tweets must continue to flow."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Consultant / 1st Line Support

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As your knowledge grows you wil...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Support and Sales Engineer - UC / M2M / IoT

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Cloud ...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk