Micro-Blogging First Twitter Blocks Neo-Nazi Account in Germany

In January, Twitter established a policy allowing it to locally censor micro-blogging accounts. This week, the Internet giant put it into use, blocking a German account that was disseminating right-wing extremist views.
Twitter blocked a right-wing extremist account in Germany this week.

Twitter blocked a right-wing extremist account in Germany this week.

Foto: Twitter/ dpa

Microblogging site Twitter blocked its first-ever account on Thursday, silencing a banned neo-Nazi group in Germany.

The profile for the right-wing extremists known as Besseres Hannover, or "Better Hanover," with the handle @hannoverticker, will no longer be visible to users inside Germany, though the rest of the world can still access the content.

It's the first time the company has used its local censorship policy, put in place in January. Twitter's general counsel Alex Macgillivray cited a request from Hanover police in a tweet announcing the move. "Never want to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly and transparently," he wrote.

The letter, dated Sept. 25, informs Twitter that the Ministry of the Interior for the state of Lower Saxony has banned the group and launched an investigation into allegations of incitement to racial hatred and forming a criminal organization.

"It is disbanded, its assets are seized and all its accounts in social networks have to be closed immediately," the letter says.

The group is suspected of being responsible for a threatening video sent to Lower Saxony's conservative minister of social affairs, Aygül Özkan, who has Turkish roots.

Twitter, used by activists and political dissidents around the world, was criticized for its announcement of the "country withheld content" function at the beginning of the year. But the social networking site maintains that it respects free speech and will publish requests to block content in partnership with the archive site Chilling Effects, unless they are legal prohibited from doing so.

Twitter is also facing potential legal action in France due to a recent wave of anti-Semitic tweets. Several such mini-messages have been distributed during the last week from the account @unbonjuif and several organizations are considering taking Twitter to court.

kla -- with wire reports