Twitter ban on neo-Nazi site backfires in Germany
Social networking site uses censorship powers for first time – but publicity brings more followers
TWITTER has used its censorship policy for the first time to block the account of a neo-Nazi group in Germany at the request of police - but the move appears to have backfired and won the right-wing group dozens of new supporters.
Users in Germany can no longer see messages posted by the extreme right-wing group Besseres Hannover, which has been outlawed. However, users in other countries can still look at, and follow, the account.
Twitter's chief lawyer, Alex Macgillivray, confirmed the move on the social networking site earlier today. "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," he tweeted. "Never want to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly and transparently."
The police letter asking for the account to be censored was posted on the Chilling Effects website. It said that the group was "disbanded, its assets are seized and all its accounts in social networks have to be closed immediately".
'Search engine guru' Danny Sullivan writing on the Marketing Land website compared Twitter's move to the "wink-wink system of 'censorship' that's long been operated by Google. The search engine, similar to Google, may 'ban' pages from appearing in certain countries. But those outside those countries (or those able to pretend they are outside of it) can still access the content."
While the account may now be banned in Germany, the publicity it has gained worldwide has led to a jump in its popularity and by Thursday afternoon it had well over 500 followers, up more than 120 on the day before.
Even more curiously a new message also appeared on the account on Thursday, apparently condemning the German government and featuring the hashtags 'censorship' and 'injustice'. Before that the account had not been used since 25 September.
Technology website Cnet notes that news of the ban comes as controversy rages in France over a spate of anti-Semitic tweets prompted by the popularity of the hashtag 'a good Jew'. It reports that there have been complaints that "Twitter makes it too hard for users to report offensive posts".