Twitter transparency report reveals government censorship is rising


by Tineka Smith| 03 July 2012

Twitter released its first transparency report detailing data and takedown requests from governments.


Twitter said in its blog that with the U.S. independence today approaching the released data is "an important reminder of the need to hold governments accountable, especially on behalf of those who many not have the chance to do so themselves."

The data, which dates back to January 1, 2012 shows that every country made fewer than 12 requests for user's information expect Japan and the United States.

The Unites States topped the charts with 679 requests related to 948 users or accounts with Twitter producing 75% of some or all the information requested.

The microblogging site revealed they received more government request in the first half of 2012 than in all of 2011.


"One of our goals is to grow Twitter in a way that makes us proud," says Jeremy Kessel, Twitter's legal policy manager. "This ideal informs many of our policies and guides us in making difficult decisions. One example is our long-standing policy to proactively notify users of requests for their account information unless we're prohibited by law; another example is transmitting DMCA takedown notices and requests to withhold content to Chilling Effects. These policies help inform people, increase awareness and hold all involved parties-including ourselves-more accountable; the release of our first Transparency Report aims to further these ambitions."


Twitter said that the report was inspired by Google's report released in June 2012. Google's report revealed that for the months of data between July and December of 2011 they complied with 65% of court orders opposed to 47% of informal requests.

Google noted out that a lot of censorship request came from countries "you might not suspect" like Western countries that are not usually associated with censoring content.

"Unfortunately, what we've seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different," said Dorothy Chou, Google senior policy analyst, on the company's official blog. "When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not."

The data was the fifth round that Google has released and each time the company says it has been asked to take down content related to political opinion.

Spanish regulators asked the search engine to remove 270 search results linking to content which reference individuals and public figures. The company also received requests from a public institution to remove links to a site which criticised it. Google says they did not comply with either of these requests.

In Google's Transparency report the U.S. topped the charts with 6,321 requests to remove content, followed by India with 2,207, Brazil with 1,651 and the U.K. with 1,455.

Online content censorship grew 49% in India and 25% in the U.K.

Google granted the U.S. 93% of their requests, followed by Brazil with 90%, India with 66% and the U.K with 64%.

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