Twitter's New Feature Lets You See Which Tweets Were Blocked For Legal Reasons

by Collette Reitz
Bethany Clarke/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Twitter is the place to go for news and information in brief... in 280 characters, to be exact. The social media platform makes it so simple to share your every thought with the world with just the press of a button, although some discretion is appreciated. Unfortunately, there are users who seemingly hit "send" without thinking about what they're typing (looking at you, @realDonaldTrump). In the case that one of those tweets is a violation of law, you might see a message alerting you that the content is withheld. Furthermore, Twitter will now tell you why a message is blocked — and when you see the message, you might ask yourself, "What is Country Withheld Content on Twitter?"

There are a couple of reasons why a tweet may be blocked on Twitter — and to foster transparency, Twitter wants to make sure you know why. A blog by Jeremy Kessel, Twitter's Global Legal Policy Director, explains the reasoning in detail. If a tweet doesn't comply with local laws or if it is blocked due to a court order, it is considered as Country Withheld Content (CWC). When you encounter such a tweet, the content will be withheld. You will then see a message on the tweet that details the reason it is blocked; it could be due to failure to comply with local laws or because of a legitimate legal demand to have the content removed.

Twitter introduced the use of Country Withheld Content in 2012, immediately following the first Twitter Transparency Report released earlier that same year. The update announced on Dec. 20 details an improvement in how Twitter users will be notified if a tweet is deemed as applicable to Country Withheld Content.

What kind of content is considered CWC? Sadly, I don't think your annoying frenemy's overuse of emojis will qualify as CWC.

A clearcut example is the use of Nazi symbols in Germany (where they are prohibited), according to Tech Crunch. This CWC update would block that kind of tweet, clarify the country in which it is being withheld, and state why that content is blocked — either "in response to a legal demand" or "based on local law(s)."

This is an example of a CWC message due to a "response to a legal demand."


Messages aren't the the only content affected by CWC. Entire accounts can also be blocked due to the same reasoning — prayers up that they're (hopefully) looking at Trump's Twitter timeline.

This is what an account looks like that is withheld as CWC.


These updates concerning the manner in which Twitter users are alerted to blocked content due to CWC regulations come at a time when Twitter is trying to evolve its use of the censoring tool. The website is also coming under intense scrutiny with the rise of white supremacist accounts and the spread of hate speech, according to VICE.

Previous to the new notifications based on local laws and court orders, Twitter's reasoning for withholding content was found on Lumen, which is a website that serves as a public database of online content removal requests.

To give you an idea of the volume of requests, the number of content removal requests sent to Twitter from January to June 2017 referred to 14,120 accounts, according to Twitter's latest transparency report — and of those requests, 1,760 accounts had content withheld to comply with CWC procedures.

Now that Twitter is adding more specificity to their CWC messages when they withhold content, the company hopes that Twitter users will be able to better understand the reasoning behind why there is certain content that you are not able to view. The further hope is that the users will gain better insight into the legal challenges that Twitter faces when confronted with content that may need to be withheld due to legal matters.

With great freedom comes great responsibility, right? So, it's best to tweet with discretion and with regard to the law. When it comes to tweeting, you can always take a page from the "measure twice, cut once" rule that handymen live by. "Think twice, tweet once," could be your new favorite mantra when it comes to staying out of hot water with CWC. Also, remember that there is no edit button, so if you hit "send" too quickly, all of your typos could be out there for the entirety of the internet to see — forever.

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