In an effort to stay on the right side of German law, Twitter has blocked access within Germany to all tweets by the neo-Nazi group Besseres Hannover. This is the first time Twitter has censored speech to keep a government happy. But is it evil censorship or pragmatism?
The New York Times reports that German police requested that Twitter delete the Besseres Hannover account, because pro-Nazi speech is illegal in that country. Twitter only went so far as to block the tweets within the country, and if you head over to the Twitter page right now from anywhere else, you can see the group’s 1011 tweets in all of their vileness.
It’s always troubling to see free speech compromised, but perhaps in this situation Twitter’s move seems defensible. Germany has very different speech laws than the United States where Twitter is based. If Twitter refused to comply with police requests, it ran the risk of a broad government crackdown on the site. A countrywide blackout would be decidedly speech-inhibiting. Twitter has always said its priority will be to keep Tweets “flowing”, even if it means some compromise with government. [New York Times]
Image via Spiegel Online