Governments ramp up legal demands for user info - Twitter

Source: Associated Press

Twitter warned Thursday (local time) that governments around the globe are asking the company to remove content or snoop on private details of user accounts at an alarming rate.

Twitter.

In a new report, the social media company revealed a record number of legal demands — nearly 60,000 over six months last year — from local, state or national governments that wanted Twitter to remove content from accounts or reveal confidential information such as direct messages or user locations.

“We’re seeing governments become more aggressive in how they try to use legal tactics to unmask the people using our service, collect information about account owners and also using legal demands as a way to try and silence people,” Yoel Roth, the head of Twitter's safety and integrity, said in a broadcast.

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The US makes up the majority of demands for account information, accounting for 20% of the requests. India follows closely behind. Twitter says it complied fully with roughly 40% of all requests for user information.

Japan, also makes frequent requests for account information and is the highest source of requests to take down content. Japan made more than 23,000 requests — half of all requests — for content to be removed. Russia followed closely behind on takedown requests.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, also reported an increase in government asks for private user data during the same timeframe.

Twitter also reported a huge spike in requests from governments that targeted verified journalists and news outlets during the last half of 2021.

Governments also made a record number of legal demands on 349 accounts of verified journalists or news outlets around the globe between July and December of last year — a 103% increase.

Twitter did not provide a breakdown of which countries made those requests on journalists' accounts or how many of the asks they complied with.

Governments are using social media companies to silence critics and censor journalists, Rob Mahoney, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in an emailed statement.

“This surge in government demands for content takedowns and information on journalists is part of a global trend of increasing censorship and manipulation of information," Mahoney said. “Social media platforms are vital for reporters and they must do more to resist government attempts to silence critical voices.”