It is the first time Twitter has used its ability to withhold content in one specific country. Although the content is blocked in Germany, it remains visible to other countries.
The Neo-Nazi group, which calls itself Besseres Hannover — meaning “a better Hannover” — is under investigation by the Hannover Police.
“The Ministry of the Interior of the State of Lower-Saxony in Germany has banned the organization ‘Besseres Hannover,’” says the letter from German authorities. “It is disbanded, its assets are seized and all its accounts in social networks have to be closed immediately. The Public Prosecutor (State Attorney’s Office) has launched an investigation on suspicion of forming a criminal association.”
Authorities asked Twitter not only to block the group’s account, but to prevent it from opening alternate accounts.
Twitter general counsel Alex MacGillivray announced the social media site’s decision to block the account the evening of Oct. 17
“We announced the ability to withhold content … We’re using it now for the first time re: a group deemed illegal in Germany,” MacGillivray tweeted.
Twitter announced plans for its Country Withheld Content in January. The function allows the social networking site to remove illegal content for one specific country.
“With hundreds of millions of Tweets posted every day around the world, our goal is to respect our users’ expression, while also taking into consideration applicable local laws,” the Twitter Help Centre page says. “Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify affected users unless we believe we are legally prohibited from doing so.”
Under the Country Withheld Content policy, the group’s tweets will appear to German users as greyed-out boxes with the words “@Username withheld” and “This account has been withheld in: Germany.”
Twitter has described the policy as a way to comply with countries’ laws while maintaining an “open and free exchange of information.”