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Twitter Bars Neo-Nazi Group Account in Germany

Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. blocked access to the account of a banned German right-wing group for viewers from that country, the first time the microblogging service has made use of an option to withhold content.

The account of the group Besseres Hannover, which was outlawed last month by the state of Lower Saxony, could no longer be accessed today by Germany-based users. The Lower Saxony government cited the group’s “spreading national-socialist ideology and fighting against the free and democratic basic order” for its ban at the time.

Twitter General Counsel Alex Macgillivray, through a message on the company’s website, pointed to a faxed request dated Sept. 25 by the police directorate in the city of Hanover, asking Twitter to “close this account immediately.” The service, which lets users post messages of no more than 140 characters to followers, said it is using for the first time rules introduced in January allowing it to withdraw content in breach of local law.

Although Twitter never wants to withhold content, it’s “good to have tools to do it narrowly and transparently,” Macgillivray wrote.

Ulrike Junga, a spokeswoman for Lower Saxony’s interior ministry, which oversees the Hanover police directorate, declined to immediately comment. Carolyn Penner, a Twitter spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail that was left before normal business hours.

“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,” according to Twitter’s website.

The request cited by Macgillivray asked Twitter to acknowledge receipt of the letter and to inform the authority of the measures taken.

To contact the reporters on this story: Cornelius Rahn in Frankfurt at crahn2@bloomberg.net; Ryan Faughnder in New York at rfaughnder@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net; Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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