KARACHI: Of the 15,826 content restrictions made by Facebook globally during July-December 2019, Russia, Pakistan and Mexico accounted for almost half of global content restrictions, according to the platform’s transparency report released on Tuesday.
Facebook restricted 2,300 items within Pakistan (the second highest after Russia with 2,900 pieces removed) during the second half of 2019. In the first half, Pakistan had reported the highest volume of content (31 per cent) to Facebook.
None of these items from the Facebook’s transparency report were removed for violating its content policies but under Pakistan’s cybercrime law.
“We restricted access in Pakistan to items reported by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority as allegedly violating local laws prohibiting advocacy against the polio vaccine, blasphemy, anti-judiciary content, proscribed organisations supporting separatism, defamation, and condemnation of the country’s independence,” said Facebook.
The company said during July-December 2019, it also restricted access to five items in response to private reports of defamation from the Pakistan government.
Social media company restricts 2,300 items within country during second half of 2019
In January 2019, Facebook received a formal takedown request from the PTA, alleging that two Facebook posts constituted illegal obscenity under Section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (Peca). The posts linked to an article discussing wife swapping and swingers events.
The platform added that neither of the reported posts violated the Facebook Community Standards pursuant to the request from the PTA. However, following the assessment of local laws, Facebook restricted access to the posts within Pakistan and notified the impacted users.
Less removal, more user requests
Overall, the content removal requests from the government declined during the period as compared to the first half of 2019.
According to the breakdown of the content restricted in Pakistan, Facebook suspended 2,009 posts, 140 pages and groups.
On Instagram, the platform restricted a total of 121 items — 116 posts and five accounts.
However, the government’s legal requests to Facebook continued to spike in the period under review — the highest ever — as the authorities sent a total of 2,027 requests. Pakistan sought data of 2,630 users/accounts, of which 1,878 requests were processed legally.
Facebook complied with 52pc of the legal requests for user data.
In emergencies, law enforcement authorities may submit requests without the legal process. Based on the circumstances, Facebook may voluntarily disclose information to law enforcement authorities where they have a good reason to believe that the matter involves the imminent risk of serious physical injury or death.
From July-December 2019, Pakistan sent 149 emergency disclosure. The platform complied with 44pc of the requests.
The platform also accepts government requests to preserve account information pending receipt of formal legal process. During the period, the government sent 520 preservation requests — its highest to date — and specified 643 users/accounts.
Globally, Facebook said during this reporting period, the volume of content restrictions based on local law decreased globally by 11pc from 17,807 to 15,826.
Last week, Facebook appointed 20 people from around the world to serve on what will effectively be the social media network’s “Supreme Court” for speech, issuing rulings on what kind of posts will be allowed and what should be taken down.
The role of the oversight board becomes questionable with government requests for data witnessing an uptick worldwide.
During the last six months of 2019, government requests for user data increased by 9.5pc from 128,617 to 140,875. Of the total volume, the US continues to submit the largest number of requests, followed by India, the UK, Germany and France.
“We scrutinise every government request we receive to make sure it is legally valid, no matter which government makes the request. If a request appears deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary,” said Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.
The company also identified 45 disruptions of Facebook services in six countries, compared to 67 disruptions in 15 countries in the first half of 2019.
Facebook also took down 3,139,315 pieces of content based on 576,423 copyright reports; 284,090 pieces of content based on 137,123 trademark reports; and 1,141,103 pieces of content based on 77,866 counterfeit reports.
Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2020