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Government Requests for Twitter User Data Jumped in 2014

Government requests for Twitter user data worldwide nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014, according to the company's latest transparency report.

During 2014, governments made 4,929 requests for user information. In 2013, that number was 2,567. In the final six months of last year, there were 2,871 requests for data, including 1,622 by the United States involving a total of 3,299 accounts. The second highest request total came from Turkey, which had just 356 requests. According to the report, Twitter provided information to the U.S. government in 80 percent of the cases.

"While requests have increased in many countries, RussiaTurkey, and the United States stand out from the rest," blogged Jeremy Kessel, senior manager of global legal policy at Twitter. "In Russia, we went from having never received a request to receiving more than 100 requests for account information during this reporting period. We did not provide information in response to any of those requests. Requests from Turkey increased over 150 percent. Again, we did not provide information in response to any of those requests. Meanwhile, we saw a 29 percent increase in requests from the United States, while our compliance rate increased 8 percent."

There was also a significant jump in government requests for content removal as well. All totaled, governments worldwide made 796 requests for content to be taken down in the final six months of 2014. That was up from 433 from the first six months of the year, and 377 during the final six months of 2013.

This time it was Turkey leading the way with 477 of these requests in the second half of last year.

"We have received 84% more removal requests impacting 348% more accounts since the previous reporting period," according to the report. "The majority of these requests came from Turkey (477), Russia (91), and Germany (43) resulting in the collective withholding of 79 accounts and 1,835 Tweets. Overall, 85 accounts and 1,982 Tweets were withheld in various countries around the world."

"Turkish requests generally focused on claimed violations of personal rights (such as defamation) of both private citizens and government officials," Kessel blogged. "During this period, we filed court objections in response to over 70 percent of the Turkish court orders we received, winning ~5 percent of our appeals, losing ~80 percent, and having ~15 percent still pending with the courts… As for Russia, requests ranged from promotion of illegal drugs to attempts to suppress non-violent demonstrations. While we had a compliance rate of 13 percent, we denied several requests to silence popular critics of the Russian government and other demands to limit speech about non-violent demonstrations in Ukraine. Most German requests dealt with complaints of alleged hateful and discriminatory content, resulting in 37 percent compliance."

Twitter recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government in federal court seeking greater transparency in national security reporting and continues to fight the case, according to Kessel. The company has also taken to publishing copies of government-issued content takedown requests for public review on Chilling Effects when it takes action on those demands.


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