#TwitterCensored: My mails to Rachel Bremer (Twitter)

As the interwebs are full of rumors, saying Twitter will be filtering its content based on in which country its users live in (as described in this blogpost), I wrote an email to Rachel Bremer, Spokesperson for Twitter in Europe.

This is what I asked her:

Dear Mrs Bremer,

(…unimportant jibberjabber…)

Concerning the Twitter-Blogpost „Tweets still must flow“ I would like to know how Twitter has been handling the problem of country limits. The post says: „Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally.“

So has been Twitter removing content globally? If yes, which kind of content has this been and how often did this happen? Who has been deciding what to delete and who has been typically the appellant?

Thanks for you help,

Yours sincerly

This is what Rachel Bremer replied (rather quickly):

Hi Daniel- thanks for getting in touch.

When Twitter is forced to remove content from the platform in response to a valid legal request, we will do so and report it to the site Chilling Effects- to provide transparency to our users about what we are being required to do. This announcement is not a change in our philosophy or policy around protecting people’s right to free expression, but a way to be more granular on a per country basis when tweets must be withheld, instead of roving them for users worldwide. We as a company, and as indivisible employees, feel extremely passionate about people’s right to free expression- which has been demonstrated in our actions since the company was founded. I want to stress that that is not changing. Please let me know if you have other questions.

rachel bremer, twitter

As far as I understand her response, Twitter will only be taking action, when forced to do so by a legal request. But unlike in the past, the content will not be deleted worldwide, but filtered locally in the country the request came from.

The local filter will not be implemented using geoblocking (source), but it will be left on the user to decide in which country he „officially“ lives in.

I wanted to know more, so I wrote another mail to Mrs. Bremer:

Hi Rachel,

thanks for your quick response. I have indeed some questions left as the discussion on the interwebs is still going on and there seems to be quite a lot of confusion on how twitter is going to implement the new feature.

Will Twitter decide on its own, which tweets to filter in which country and select/filter them without any other party forcing you to do so? Or will you ONLY block content in response to a valid legal request in the country the legal request came from? In clear words: Will Twitter be censoring its content on its own aka self-censorship? If not, why didn’t you say so clearly in your blogpost?

As I read on netzwertig.com, Twitter will not be implementing geoblocking but will be giving the user the ability to choose in which country he lives in. Is that correct? If yes, why didn’t you say so clearly in your blogpost?

Thanks a lot for your help,

Daniel Bröckerhoff, NDR Zapp

As soon as she replies I will be posting her response here.

//UPDATE 17:07//

Rachel has replied:

Hi Daniel – we always have, and will continue to evaluate each complaint on a case by case basis. We will make a determination based on the information we have at our disposal, which may include legal confirmation of a law being broken. There are so many different hypothetical situations, which we won’t comment on, that’s it’s hard to get any more specific than this.

We outline the country setting process very clearly on our help pages, but I understand that there’s been some confusion about that online. Because we understand that geo-location by IP address is an imperfect science, we give our users the control to manually change their setting if they’ve been misidentified.



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