While social media platforms sometimes take action themselves to remove dishonest content or material that violates their rules, another fairly common content takedown request comes from governments themselves. According to a new reportTwitter has seen a record number of such requests over the past year.
Twitter released its transparency report for the first half of the previous year, detailing some statistics on withdrawal requests. Governments around the world demanded to remove content from a record number of accounts between January and June 2021, with 43,387 legal requests to remove content from 196,878 accounts issued during the six-month period. This is the highest number of accounts targeted by government takedown requests since Twitter began publishing transparency reports in 2012.
95% of these requests came from just five countries: namely Japan, Russia, Turkey, India and South Korea. In response to 54% of these requests, Twitter either blocked the content in certain countries or asked users to remove it. Twitter Vice President of Global Public Policy and Philanthropy Sinead McSweeney reportedly said:
We face unprecedented challenges as governments around the world increasingly attempt to step in and remove content. This threat to privacy and freedom of expression is a deeply disturbing trend that requires our full attention. Today’s update from the Twitter Transparency Center highlights our long-standing commitment to meaningful transparency and the pressing and urgent need to champion an open, free, secure, and global Internet.
It is important to note the magnitude of the increase in requests for withdrawal from the government during the period January-June 2021 compared to the others. There was a 50% increase in the number of accounts reported from the previous six months, with legal requests to remove content also jumping 14% from the previous reporting period.
Meanwhile, requests to remove accounts belonging to journalists and news outlets fell by 14%. Twitter doesn’t explain in its blog post what global factors caused the escalation in legal takedown requests, but you can see a summary of his findings and other interesting statistics here.