This Is How Twitter Blocks Far-Right Tweets in Germany

Maybe it’s because of Germany’s legal stance towards far-right extremism.

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Jun 13 2017, 10:54am

Britain First leader Paul Golding. Image: Elena Rostunova

Even though you may stumble across all sorts of offensive or grotesque material on social media, it's worth remembering that these networks typically aren't a free-for-all, where anything goes. Instead, companies such as Twitter sometimes have to bend to local or domestic tastes and legislation, meaning that what a user in one country sees could be unavailable to someone in another.

In one example of this, Twitter users connecting from Germany are unable to view tweets from the head of a British far-right political group.

"@GoldingBF's account has been withheld in: Germany," Twitter displays when connecting from a German IP address. Paul Golding leads Britain First, a nationalist group that formed out of the British National Party (BNP). Britain First members trampled over prayer mats to hand out Bibles to Muslims in mosques back in 2014. Judging by one of Golding's tweets, Twitter may have acted on the account in around April.

Image: Joseph Cox
A comparison of Golding's profile when connecting from different locations. The right panel is from a German IP address. Image: Joseph Cox

Motherboard viewed Golding's profile from IP addresses both within and outside Germany. From a desktop computer, none of Golding's profile was visible, instead replaced with the mentioned withheld message. On a mobile client, those connecting from Germany can still see the profile itself, but all of the account's tweets have been replaced with a disclaimer. It is also seemingly not possible to use Twitter's search function to find Golding's tweets.

Golding appears to post some misleading or false content, including around events in Germany. In April, Golding shared a video that he alleged showed Muslims celebrating a recent terror attack in Paris. The video, however, was of Pakistani cricket fans basking in their World Cup victory.

Golding's profile on a mobile device while connecting from a German IP address. Image: Joseph Cox

More than anything, this is an opportunity to see how Twitter polices certain users and types of content, albeit in specific locations. For years, the social network has battled with offensive content and extreme political speech.

"So Twitter do care about Nazis but only for countries that have specifically legislated against them," one Twitter user responding to the Golding block tweeted on Tuesday.

Indeed, back in 2012 Twitter blocked a neo-Nazi's account after a request from German authorities. The neo-Nazi group was deemed illegal in Germany.

Twitter did not respond to a request for clarification on whether authorities had asked the company to withhold Golding's account. Golding did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

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