Twitter receives massive increase in government data requests

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By Larry Banks

In its latest Transparency Report, Twitter has witnessed an explosion in government requests for information on the company’s users.

Governments request Twitter data

The popular social media platform has seen a 40% rise in requests from various governments since its last report was published, in July 2014. The government of Turkey was responsible for hundreds of requests, which had in fact previously attempted to ban Twitter. However, the vast majority of requests came from the U.S. government.

Most of the world’s large Internet companies (including Google, Yahoo and Facebook) now publish frequent transparency reports in order to keep us informed about which governments are requesting data. It’s partly in response to revelations from Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, who exposed mass surveillance programs in the United States and elsewhere.

Twitter Transparency Report 2014

The U.S. government tops the charts

“Providing this insight is simply the right thing to do, especially in an age of increasing concerns about government surveillance”, said Twitter’s Jeremy Kessel in a blog post.

In total, Twitter had received 2,871 government requests asking the company to provide information about more than 7,000 users in the second half of 2014 alone, and slightly more than half of those had been granted. Of all the 1,622 requests from the U.S. government, 80% had been complied with.

Twitter Information Requests USA

The Turkish government came second in the government requests stakes with 356 requests, but none of its requests had been fulfilled. Unfortunately, Twitter did not reveal any details about the denied requests.

Twitter also witnesses a more than 80% increase in demands to actually remove content from Twitter – the top three countries were Turkey (477), Russia (91) and Germany (43).  The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan managed to block Twitter in March last year after a Twitter user posted allegations of corruption, but that ban was overturned by the courts and normal service resumed.

Russian requests

Russia had sent 108 requests for information since July, according to the Twitter report, whereas previously it had not submitted any. The Russian government also sent 91 requests to remove content such as posts promoting illegal drugs.

“We denied several requests to silence popular critics of the Russian government and other demands to limit speech about non-violent demonstration in Ukraine,” said Twitter’s Kessel. And in August of last year, Russia passed various laws which place restrictions on social media users – for example any blogger with over 3,000 readers each day must register with the state regulator, and social media companies must keep six months’ of data on users. Furthermore, bloggers in Russia are not allowed to remain anonymous.

SOURCE: Twitter

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