Brazil could become the first country to use Twitter's controversial new censorship policy – a move, the Brazilians say, aimed at stopping citizens from alerting drivers to roadblocks, drunk-driving checkpoints and speed traps.
Last month, Twitter announced it would allow country-specific censoring of tweets that might break local laws. The policy shift essentially means that "offending" tweets will be blocked in countries which oppose them but visible elsewhere. Free speech and internet freedom activists felt betrayed by the decision and immediately voiced their displeasure.
Brazil, it appears, chose to test the waters. An injunction was filed at the request of highway patrol officials in the country’s Central-Western region who alleged that road-traffic related messages on Twitter reduced their ability to fight crimes like drunk driving, drug trafficking and theft. If the court finds in favour of the injunction, offenders could face a massive fine of $291,000 (500,000 reals). In an email, Twitter Inc has responded that it had "nothing to share on the issue". The prosecutor's office has taken pains to state that the injunction request had no relation to Twitter's new policy.
But not many are buying that argument. And now with Brazil taking Twitter up on its word, there is a real fear that other governments might be encouraged to use the policy to silence dissent. In an interview with the AP, Eva Galperin of the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation predicted further instances of countries using "the tool provided by Twitter" to censor traffic.
Further reading: See what Twitter's CEO had to say about its new policy.
Take action: Is Twitter at fault? Send us your thoughts at email@example.com.