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Twitter censors bow to police, suppress Nazi tweets

First they came for the national socialists ...

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Twitter has blocked access to a banned Neo-Nazi group in Germany after a request from the local police.

Hannover police asked for the ban after disbanding the far-right group and seizing its assets during an criminal investigation into it.

"All its accounts in social networks have to be closed immediately," the police wrote to Twitter. "The Public Prosecutor (State Attorney's Office) has launched an investigation on suspicion of forming a criminal association."

The micro-blogging site caused consternation amongst free speech and free internet supporters when it said in January this year that it was partially abandoning its "tweets must flow" philosophy. The site said that different countries had different ideas about what constituted free expression so Twitter would obey local laws for showing that content locally.

Critics of the change claimed it would be used to make good with repressive regimes and make the service more China-friendly.

Twitter said it would be completely transparent about why it bans specific content, posting cease and desist notices like the one from the Hannover Police on a page on legal complaints about online activity aggregator Chilling Effects.

Alex Macgillivray, general counsel for Twitter, tweeted today that the block in Germany was the first time the site had used its ability to withhold content locally.

Twitter's first transparency report, which showed requests to take down information, showed that the site got three other removal requests this year that it ignored. However, the site removed 5,275 tweets and 599 media over copyright takedown notices. ®

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