U.S. reiterates freedom of expression, awaits implementation of Twitter censure policy
Washington, DC, United States (AHN) – The United States on Friday advocated protection of fundamental freedoms of expression but avoided commenting on the censure policies announced by social media platform Twitter this week, according to the State Department officials.
“I think in the Twitter case, what we see here is a company making very clear what its policies are going to be in these circumstances where the choice is operate not at all or operate in a constrained way,” said Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman.
Twitter said in a blog post on its website, “Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.”
Nuland asked journalists to wait until the policy goes into effect before the U.S. passes judgment on it. “Until we see how they are implemented and how it impacts on content, we obviously can’t evaluate whether this is a good thing or not for internet freedom.”
Referring to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s statements, Nuland said, “As the Secretary’s made clear on numerous occasions, we’re strongly committed to protecting fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, association online.”
Citing Clinton’s recent internet freedom speech, Nuland said, “The choices that private companies make have an impact on how information flows or doesn’t flow on the internet and mobile networks. They also have an impact on what governments can and can’t do and on people on the ground.”
Outlining the guiding principles, Nuland said, “Smart companies need to develop broad principles that guide their action, and in the tech field this includes principles on freedom of expression, privacy, criteria on when to avoid working with governments that use technology to become more efficient at committing human rights violations, these kinds of things.”
In an update posted on its company website blog, Twitter said on Friday, “We believe the new, more granular approach to withheld content is a good thing for freedom of expression, transparency, accountability — and for our users.”
Nuland endorsed the Twitter policy, saying, “Twitter has stated publicly that it is committed to abiding by fundamental freedoms of expression and association and assembly and to being transparent.”
“We’ve been working to reduce the scope of withholding, while increasing transparency, for a while. We have users all over the world and wanted to find a way to deal with requests in the least restrictive way,” stated Twitter about the timing of the new policy.
Asked if the U.S. had communicated with Twitter as the State Department in recent times launched various tweet accounts in different languages, Nuland told journalists, “I can’t speak to whether we’ve had conversations with Twitter in the last 24 hours. I will let you know if we have anything to say on that front.”
She added, “There are many companies out there that make these decisions without being transparent, either to their users or to the world.”
“Twitter’s been upfront about what they’re doing,” said Nuland. “I think we have to see how it works.”