This article was published on January 30, 2012

Twitter’s new ‘censorship’ feature could lead to legal restrictions for UK tweeters

Twitter’s new ‘censorship’ feature could lead to legal restrictions for UK tweeters

The reaction to Twitter’s announcement that it could censor tweets by location has been received mainly in one context – how it will be used by authoritative regimes. In fact, Thailand has been the first government to openly welcome the new feature, while Reporters without Borders has written an open-letter to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, asking him to reverse the decision.

According to The Telegraph, however, there’s another dimension to how it could be used by the UK government – and that is to censor super-injunction tweets.

According to UK law, the media can’t publicly name the holder of a super-injuction – in other words, if a high profile celebrity is involved in a lawsuit, a gagging order can stop the media from publishing any personal details.

Twitter was something of a safe-haven where people could say whatever they wanted – as was seen in the case of the Ryan Giggs super-injunction. That freedom did, however, lead to Twitter being sued by the footballer. With the latest feature, Twitter is putting itself out of harm’s way.

Twitter’s head of global public policy, Colin Crowell confirmed that the new Twitter feature could come into action if British users tweet about anything that is off-limits, including naming the holder of a super-injuction. He added that if it were to happen, it would be a first for Twitter, having never received a similar order in the past.

According to The Telegraph, Crowell said, “Our policy is, now that we have the ability to cater things to a particular jurisdiction, is to work through that on a case-by-case basis.”

Of course with how the feature works, anyone outside of the UK would still be able to see the tweets.

Crowell added, “We will seek to notify the user promply that some authorised entity has requested that the tweet be witheld. We will also be transparent to other users in that jurisdiction, we won’t simply surreptitiously delete it.”