BERLIN — Twitter waded into potentially perilous territory on Thursday when it blocked users in Germany from access to the account of a neo-Nazi group that is banned by the government here.
The move was the first time that Twitter acted on a policy known as “country-withheld content,” announced in January, in which it will block an account at the request of a government. But the company cracked open the gates to a complex new era in which it will increasingly have to referee legal challenges to the deluge of posts that has made the site so popular.
The company said the goal was to balance freedom of expression with compliance with local laws.
While the idea of blocking content where said content is illegal seems reasonable on its face, it flies against the widely-held notion that information should, with extremely rare exceptions, be widely available (exceptions being cases where secrecy trumps the public's right to know).
However, stop and think about it. How does the principle Twitter is applying to dictatorships, for example. Doesn't withholding anti-government tweets make Twitter complicit with the dictators?
Should Twitter have given in to the German government. Bear in mind, that should Twitter have any assets in Germany or should any of its officers visit Germany, they could be held and charged with what is a very serious crime in Germany.
And Germany isn't the only European country which seeks to block neo-Nazi propaganda from reaching their citizens.