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Encouraged by Google, Twitter Offers Transparency Report of Its Own

Twitter, the ever popular, privacy respecting social network, released their first transparency report this week, after taking a cue from Google. The report isn’t glowing, but it is a solid start and another view of how a major Internet portal deals with protecting a user’s rights.

“We’ve received more government requests in the first half of 2012, as outlined in this initial dataset, than in the entirety of 2011,” wrote Jeremy Kessel, the manager of legal policy at Twitter, in a blog post. 

Twitter Transparency Report“One of our goals is to grow Twitter in a way that makes us proud. 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.”

The report itself, inspired by the one produced by Google, only represents 6 months worth of data, from January 1 to June 30 of this year. Yet, within that sample, it’s clear that Twitter had no choice but to comply with information requests, turning over some or all of the requested data 63% of the time globally, and 75% of the time in the U.S. Here in the U.S., there were 679 information requests made, focusing on 948 accounts. The collected data includes formal government requests to remove or withhold content, the report explains.

“Governments generally make removal requests for content that may be illegal in their respective jurisdictions. For example, a government agency may obtain a court order requiring the removal of defamatory statements or law enforcement may request us to remove prohibited content.” 

The transparency report went public the same day that a judge in New York ruled that an Occupy Wall Street protester’s tweets were not protected, and could be used in the case against him for disorderly conduct.

“The Constitution gives you the right to post, but as numerous people have learned, there are still consequences for your public posts. What you give to the public belongs to the public. What you keep to yourself belongs only to you,” the ruling reads in part.

In a statement, Twitter said that they are disappointed by the decision, adding that they are “considering” their options. “Twitter's Terms of Service have long made it absolutely clear that its users own their content. We continue to have a steadfast commitment to our users and their rights.”

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.