As Twitter steps up their policies on behavior and content, several accounts had an odd message that Twitter says was an accident. According to BuzzFeed, several accounts had their profiles replaced with a withheld message. Their timelines disappeared without any explanation. Buzzfeed identified 21 accounts with this message. According to a Twitter spokesperson, these messages were the result of a bug. If you go to Twitter’s website, they have a page dedicated to the “country withheld” message. There, it says
“if we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time. We have found that transparency is vital to freedom of expression. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify affected users unless we believe we are legally prohibited from doing so (for example, if we receive an order under seal). “
Twitter also has a paragraph detailing how government or law enforcement agencies can request profiles to block. The page implies that Twitter reserves the right to deny requests if the content is not in violation of their Terms of Service. Those who have been taken down can either remove the flagged content or delete their account.
Although Twitter claims this recent incident was a bug, it doesn’t make this any less creepy. Twitter is already oddly selective in their banning of accounts, so knowing that requests can be made by government agencies is a clue into how Twitter is functioning in a world where YouTube demonetizes videos and Facebook screens paid advertisements for sensitivity issues.