FRANKFURT, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Twitter has blocked messages in Germany from a group banned by local authorities over right-wing extremism, using its powers to withhold content in one specific country for the first time.
“The account and all its content have been blocked for Germany, the content remains visible to Twitter users in other countries,” a spokesman for Twitter said.
Twitter announced plans for its so-called “Country Withheld Content” function earlier this year, which allows it to remove illegal content for one specific country, saying it believed that keeping messages up in other places would serve freedom of expression, transparency and accountability.
The spokesman said the move to block messages from the German group - which calls itself Besseres Hannover, which means “a better Hanover” - came at the request of police in the northern German city of Hanover.
Alex MacGillivray, Twitter’s General Counsel tweeted “Never want to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly & transparently,” and linked to a copy of the police letter.
Public prosecutors searched the homes of more than 20 suspected members of the group last month who are accused of forming a criminal organisation with the intention of committing crimes. According to Hanover police, the group was banned on Sept. 25 and ordered to halt all its activities.
Hanover Police President Axel Brockmann said in a statement last month he had pledged when taking office “to crush this group of neo-Nazi and far-right activists wherever it appeared”.
“This horror is at an end,” said Uwe Schuenemann, the Interior Minister of the local state Lower Saxony, when he announced the ban.
Police said the group had 40 members and had recently distributed copies of its far-right magazine at schools.
Authorities and residents across Germany have become more sensitive to the threat of far-right militants since revelations last year that a neo-Nazi cell waged a seven-year racist killing spree through the country, murdering nine people, mostly of Turkish origin.