Twitter reports huge increase in gov't data requests

In the second half of 2014, requests were up 40 percent for user information, and 84 percent for content removal

Governments are becoming hungrier for Twitter data, increasing the number of requests for user information by 40 percent between the first half and the second half of 2014.

"Providing this level of transparency is not without its complications and sometimes means we get tough questions and criticism about our decisions," wrote Jeremy Kessel, Twitter's senior manager for global legal policy, in a blog post Monday.

Twitter received 2,871 account information requests from various governments, targeting 7,144 accounts, during the second half of 2014, and the company complied in 52 percent of the cases, it said in a new transparency report.

Russia, Turkey and the U.S. were among the countries where requests for Twitter user information increased significantly.

Twitter received more than 100 requests for account information from the Russian government in the second half of 2014, from previously "having never received a request," Kessel wrote. Twitter declined to honor any of the Russian requests.

Turkey requests rose by 150 percent, while those from the U.S. government increased 29 percent. Turkey didn't honor any of Turkey's requests, but it did comply with 80 percent of the U.S. requests.

Meanwhile, government and government-sanctioned requests for content removal jumped 84 percent. Leading this category were Turkey with 477 requests, Russia with 91, and Germany with 43.

During the second half of 2014, Twitter received 376 court orders for content removal and 420 other removal requests from police and other government agencies. Twitter honored the removal requests in 13 percent of those cases, covering 1,982 tweets.

Turkish requests generally focused on claimed violations of personal rights, such as defamation, of private citizens or government officials. Twitter filed court objections to more than 70 percent of the Turkish court orders it received, winning about 5 percent of the cases.

In Russia, the requests to remove content included tweets about illegal drugs and about nonviolent demonstrations. The company denied "several requests to silence popular critics of the Russian government and other demands to limit speech about nonviolent demonstrations in Ukraine," Kessel wrote.

Twitter also noted that the U.S. government has filed a redacted version of a draft transparency report that the company had proposed as a way to provide greater transparency about government surveillance requests. Twitter filed a lawsuit in October seeking to report more information about the surveillance requests it receives from the U.S. government.

Also, Twitter saw an 81 percent increase in the number of copyright infringement takedown notices allowed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA], during the second half of 2014. The company received 16,648 DMCA takedown notices during the six-month period, and the company removed content 66 percent of the time.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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