For the first time ever, Twitter has issued a transparency report card that sheds light on how often it's been asked by government officials to delete tweets and hand over user information -- and how frequently the social media site has complied.
Twitter's inaugural Transparency Report, based on activity during the first half of this year, details government requests for user data, authorities' efforts to have tweets removed and copyright takedown notices. It suggests officials are taking a more active interest in Twitter users' activity: Twitter's legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel writes, "We’ve received more government requests in the first half of 2012, as outlined in this initial dataset, than in the entirety of 2011."
The report will be released twice a year and was "inspired" by Google's own transparency report, noted Kessel, who added the disclosure marks an effort to "hold governments accountable" and demonstrate for users how frequently Twitter complies with authorities' requests.
But Twitter's release also promises to put additional pressure on Facebook, itself brimming with personal information, to disclose its own cooperation (or lack thereof) with governments that request user data and ask for posts to be deleted. Facebook notes in its data use policy that the company "may access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so." Yet the world's largest social networking site has yet to publicly quantify how frequently it's asked to hand over or remove users' details or content, and when it does so.
Complaints concerning copyright infringement on Twitter far outnumbered officials' requests for user data. Between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, Twitter received 3,378 requests to remove copyrighted material, and complied 38 percent of the time. In total, 5,874 users or accounts were affected, and 5,275 tweets were deleted.
Twitter received 849 requests for user information from 23 countries and complied with 63 percent of those in full or in part. Nearly 80 percent of all requests for user information came from U.S. authorities, or 679 in total, affecting 948 accounts. By comparison, between July and December 2011, the most recent period for which data is available, Google fielded more than 18,257 user data requests from more than two dozen countries.
Twitter registered three requests to delete tweets -- two from authorities in Greece, and one from the Turkish government -- all three of which were denied.
The release of Twitter's transparency report comes on the same day the site lost a legal battle to keep an Occupy Wall Street protester's tweets out of prosecutors' hands.
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