Twitter complied with 35pc legal requests from Pakistan in 2019

Updated 01 Sep 2020

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Between July and December of 2019, Twitter received 219 legal demands for removal of content from Pakistan. — AP/File
Between July and December of 2019, Twitter received 219 legal demands for removal of content from Pakistan. — AP/File

KARACHI: According to the latest biannual transparency report, micro blogging website Twitter has started complying with content removal requests from Pakistan — a marked departure from previous years of non-compliance.

The total compliance rate, released for the first time by the company, refers to the percentage of requests where Twitter took a specific action to remove content (e.g, Tweet or account withheld, Tweet removed, or an account was suspended) in response to a legal demand.

The company has released its latest transparency report for the period of July-December 2019 with a comprehensive Twitter Transparency Centre.

The new platform provides access to all the disclosed data in one place, a country-comparison module and tooltips to explain and provide more insights about key terms that are used by the platform and latest metrics and methodology on the enforcement of the Twitter Rules from July 2018 till December 2019.

Between July and December of 2019, Twitter received 219 legal demands for removal of content from Pakistan.

Worldwide 21pc more information requests submitted compared to previous reporting period

According to Twitter, legal demands include a combination of court orders and other formal demands to remove content, from both governmental entities and lawyers representing individuals.

Read: The furious case of Twitter ‘violations’

None of the legal demands for content removal were sent through a court order during July-December 2019. However, Twitter said it responded with a 35.2 per cent compliance rate during the period.

In these legal demands, 1,476 accounts were specified for removal, but Twitter did not withhold tweet or delete the accounts. The company added that it had removed some content and/or accounts based on 191 legal demands for violating Twitter’s TOS (which includes both Twitter’s Terms Service and the Twitter Rules).

In terms of information requests, Pakistan made requests for 13 accounts and specified 18 in the second half of 2019 as compared to 23 information requests and 70 accounts specified last year.

Twitter’s transparency report further stated that of the 13 information requests, Pakistan sent eight routine requests and five emergency requests. From the 18 accounts specified, 10 were identified in the routine request and eight in emergency requests from the government.

Routine requests (aka non-emergency requests) are legal demands issued by the government or law enforcement authorities (e.g, subpoenas, court orders, search warrants) that compel Twitter to turn over account information.

Twitter may disclose account information to law enforcement in response to a valid “emergency request” if it is provided with sufficient information to support a good faith belief that there is an imminent threat involving danger of death or serious physical injury to a person.

Twitter, however, declined all the requests for account information and removal.

Global action

Twitter said governments and law enforcement agencies around the world submitted approximately 21pc more information requests compared to the previous reporting period.

Notably, the aggregate number of accounts specified in these requests increased by nearly 63pc. The total volume of requests and specified accounts are respectively the largest the company has witnessed to date since its transparency reporting began in 2012.

The United States remains the single largest source of government requests, but now only accounts for 26pc of the global volume, and 44pc of global accounts specified. The second highest volume of requests originates from Japan, comprising 22pc of global information requests, and nearly 14pc of global accounts specified.

In comparison, requests from the next six top countries — France (12pc), India (9pc), South Korea (5pc), Turkey (5pc), the United Kingdom (5pc), and Germany (4pc) — together account for 40pc of all global information requests, and 32pc of all global accounts specified.

In terms of removal requests, Twitter received 27,538 legal demands to remove content specifying 98,595 accounts. According to the company, 86pc of the total global volume of legal demands are originated from only three countries: Japan, Russia and Turkey.

Twitter said 193 accounts of verified journalists and news outlets from around the world were the subject of legal demands, representing a 58pc increase during this reporting period.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2020