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Copyright infringing tweets now withheld, not removed

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Twitter has begun handling DMCA copyright notices in a new way. In a tweet, Twitter announced that the practice of outright removing tweets has been shelved. Instead, the site will notify the offending tweeters with a notice indicating that the tweet has been marked for a DMCA takedown.

In the past, Twitter would completely remove the infringing tweet, and retweets and responses would disappear along with it. The new tactic will replace the tweet with a reason explaining its removal, while keeping everything else intact.

To recap the type of content that Twitter will remove, Twitter’s tweet linked to its Copyright and DMCA Policy page which outlines what’s considered copyright infringement:

“Twitter will respond to reports of alleged copyright infringement, such as allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image as a profile photo, header photo, or background, allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image uploaded through our photo hosting service, or Tweets containing links to allegedly infringing materials.”

The way Twitter is handling DMCA takedowns parallel’s Google’s DMCA notifications that show up at the bottom of search results. Results removed from Google results are replaced with an explanation, the number of results removed, and a link to the report from the party responsible for filing the complaint.

To give you an idea of what the tweets will look like Twitter will replace the infringing content with the following explanation:

withheld tweets

“This Tweet from [@username] has been withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder. Learn more: support.twitter.com/articles/15795#”

In the past, infringing tweets would be removed and clicking on a URL of where the tweet used to live, would instead open up a 404 page indicating that the content has been removed altogether.

The change helps to manage the transparency that Twitter wishes to maintain with its content moderating practices, as explained in its policy page:

“In an effort to be as transparent as possible regarding the removal or restriction of access to user-posted content, we clearly mark withheld Tweets and media to indicate to viewers when content has been withheld.”

As a company that’s steadily evolving into a content hub for publishing the latest news, there’s a delicate balance between users and complaining publishers that needs to be maintained to keep both parties relatively happy. Removing content outright discourages users from using Twitter as a content distribution platform, while of course failing to acknowledge and comply with DMCA complaints subjects Twitter to lawsuits. This is one strategy that provides transparency for DMCA takedown notices for all parties involved, including the readers and retweeters of the tweets. It’s also a strategy that can help identify baseless complaints, which has in fact been a common practice on Google.