“Twitter has blocked users in Germany from access to the account of a neo-Nazi group that is banned by the government, renewing concerns about the future of free speech on the site.” (NY Times). In January of this year, Twitter created a policy known as “country-withheld content”, which Twitter states is meant to create a balance of compliance with local laws and freedom of expression. This block of access is the first time that Twitter has enforced this policy. Last month, “German authorities in the state of Lower Saxony” banned the group. Further, the German police requested that Twitter shut down the group’s account. However, Twitter only blocked access in Germany. Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, stated that “it’s better for twitter if they can keep countries happy without having to take the whole thing down.” (NY Times). Unlike the United States, freedom of expression is more restrictive in Germany, where “Nazi symbols and slogans can be criminally prosecuted.” (NY Times).
As we have seen throughout the recent months, freedom of expression has been involved in the news on an international scale. Earlier this year, Egypt had similar freedom of expression questions when they issued warrants for the arrest of the creators of the anti-Islamic video entitled “Innocence of Muslims.” (PILR: Egypt Issues Warrants Over Controversial Anti-Islam Video) This video later came to the forefront of restricting content on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. (PILR: Hate Speech or Too Late Speech).As mentioned in PILR: Hate Speech or Too Late Speech, “twitter’s wide boundary for speech has gotten them into hot water with governments.” With that being said, it is clear that Twitter has taken a more stringent approach in this scenario with their ban of this group to avoid such trouble with countries.
Regardless of your opinions on this Neo-Nazi group, which I would assume as a majority we all view negatively, do you feel that this was the proper course of action to take in banning access to the group’s tweets in Germany? Do you feel that the group should be able to post content via their twitter page without the government’s restriction? Does this ban open a Pandora’s box for other restriction on freedom of expression or is this action justified based on the history of this group?