Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is preparing an open letter to the chief executive of Twitter, to raise concerns about an announcement that the social media platform now has the power to "reactively withhold" tweets from users to meet country-based restrictions.
In a blog post on Thursday (26 January), Twitter said previously it would deal with the different restrictions on freedom of expression in countries by taking content down "globally", but that it now has "the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country".
Such content would remain available to "the rest of the world", the company adds, highlighting that it is "also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why".
In response to this decision, widely reported in the media as a move which would effectively "censor" tweets, Reporters Without Borders said there could be "real consequences" for journalists and freedom of information, and is preparing an open letter to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey, asking for more details on the way this "ability" will be carried out.
Head of the new media desk at RSF Lucie Morillon said the organisation is "very concerned" but is still trying to "grasp the extent" of the consequences.
"Clearly if Twitter is ready to abide by repressive countries then there are real consequences for journalists, bloggers ... It's not only about cyberdissidents from Syria getting information out, but about journalists being able to get information and help circulate it. Then the chain of information is broken."
She also told Journalism.co.uk that such a move would "go completely against recent events in the Arab world".
"Twitter had taken a good decision back then in Egypt with its 'Speak to Tweet' telephone service with Google", which was set up amid the internet blackout last year.
Morillon added that the impact of this move by Twitter is "a different story" when applied in democratic countries where "you can see the rule of law should be more or less OK", although she said there is still a "need to stay vigilant"....read more