Is Twitter Going To Start Blocking “Gay” Tweets In Anti-LGBT Countries?

Twitter has announced that it now has “the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country—while keeping it available in the rest of the world.”

Essentially, if a specific country does not allow certain types of expression (Twitter uses the example of pro-Nazi content in France and Germany), it can request that a tweet be blocked to users within that country. It will still show up in Twitter feds elsewhere around the world. Previously, Twitter could only block tweets on a global level.

Blocked messages would look like this:

While it seems that Twitter intends to use this policy in good faith, questions are already being raised about whether anti-gay states in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East would use the new system to censor words like “gay” or other LGBT-related terms from their Twitter lexicon.

Dan Littauer, Executive Editor for Gay Middle East told Pink News that he’s worried this policy will stifle budding gay-rights movements in intolerant countries.

“We are very concerned about this new development. Twitter has an enormous impact in spreading news and media, especially regarding Human Rights, including LGBT rights across the world and in particular the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Twitter has been essential, for example, in helping the Arab Spring protests and also spread of information regarding LGBT issues in the Middle East and North Africa. Users within the state where censorship is about to occur will not be able to co-ordinate protests or actions.

Furthermore, many users in this region rely on tweets to inform them about already blocked sites, such as ours, for example in Saudi Arabia. This allows the Twitter users to use technology to bypass the censorship.

This means that if LGBT related tweets and users will be censored across some or all of the MENA countries it will make it so much harder to communicate and even know about censorship itself in that country. This is a very dangerous precedent.”

So far, the only country to come forward in support of Twitter’s new policy is Thailand, which is known for its highly restrictive, heavily enforced censorship laws. Information and Communication Technology Minister Jeerawan Boonperm called the censorship-enabling abilities a “welcome development.”

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  • Mike UK

    shame on them!

  • christopher di spirito

    Twitter played an important role in the Arab Spring that toppled the dictatorial regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. With their new censorship policy, Twitter would’ve been MIA from these historical events. What a shame. Twitter is quickly becoming irrelevant.

  • Pata

    Since this hit the news a few days ago, I’ve noticed that people are really giving Twitter a hard time over this. I don’t approve of censorship either, but we have to be realistic here. When governments request censorship, Twitter has only two options:

    1) Twitter declines the government’s request, which results in Twitter being banned completely for all users in that country.
    2) Twitter complies with the request, but only censors the content in that specific country.

    There is no magical third option. When declined, a government isn’t going to turn around and defeatedly shuffle down the street kicking a can. While not ideal, at least with this policy things are limited only to the country in question. The rest of the world still gets to hear about what’s happening and act upon that information.

  • Price Waterhouse

    Is it a coincidence that a Saudi prince just invested $600 million in Twitter?

  • Kylew

    I think sometimes you can tell as much about the inadvisability of an idea by the quality of its supporters, as its detractors. This seems to be exactly such a case.

  • Me

    Twitter is walking down a dangerous path towards enabling human rights abuses by turning off the lights and looking the other way. Point-in-fact, Tweeter actually was banned during the Arab Spring Uprising in Egypt for a time, but it didn’t back down then. Let’s just hope they don’t throw in the towel when it comes to the GLBT community or other civil rights movements that don’t normally garner as much “world media” attention.

    ———example below———–

    January 26, 2011 03:04pm EST

    Twitter has been blocked in Egypt as a result of massive protests arranged via social-networking sites.

    “We can confirm that Twitter was blocked in Egypt around 8am PT today,” Twitter confirmed on the @twitterglobalpr feed Tuesday evening. “It’s impacting both & applications. We believe that the open exchange of info & views benefits societies and helps govts. better connect w/ their people.”

    The ban had been widely reported yesterday, but a spokesperson from Twitter had previously been coy about confirming it. Instead she pointed to a site that monitors Internet access around the world, the Herdict Report, which affirmed that the site had been blocked. On Tuesday, @HerdictReport said that Twitter was inaccessible six times, but as of publication time, that number has surged to 50.

    “We prefer users in Egypt (or elsewhere) to speak for how Twitter is being used (or not) instead of us,” read another @twitterglobalpr Tweet.

    Demonstrations organized via Facebook and Twitter brought thousands into the streets of Cairo to protest failing economic policies, government corruption, and to call for an end of the nearly 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak.


    Read the rest of the article below:,2817,2376704,00.asp

  • Derek Williams

    Bottom line is money. There is no money in backing us in the Middle East, so they will cave in. Time for an independent Twitter for LGBT users alone, and an independent LGBT Google, because they’re planning the exact same move.

    I already canceled my Twitter and Google Plus accounts in protest, but unless we get straight support, the protest will be stomped all over by the superior anti-gay forces terrorising us in the Middle Easter Islamic states, where homosexuality is punished by death.

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