UK police demand little data from Twitter

British authorities have moved into third place for demanding user data from Twitter – but police and government still ask for very little compared to their US counterparts.

UK police demand little data from Twitter

Twitter’s biannual transparency report revealed UK authorities have made 26 information requests from Twitter covering 29 accounts – enough to put it in third place globally, but well behind the 902 requests in the US.

“The United States leads the way, comprising 78% of all requests received. Japan remains the second largest requester with a total of 8% of overall requests, up from 6% in July – December 2012,” Twitter said in the report. “Brazil dropped from third overall in the last report to the number four spot with the United Kingdom moving up to number three, comprising 3% of total requests received during the first half of 2013.”

The global number of information requests has climbed to 1,157 in this report, up from 849 for the same period last year and 1,007 at the end of last year. The UK stats are roughly the same as the last report.

An important conversation has begun about the extent to which companies should be allowed to publish information regarding national security requests

Of the UK requests, Twitter responded with full or partial data only 15% of the time. Twitter notifies users when data on their account is requested, unless prevented from doing so by law.

The report covers from the beginning of the year until the end of June – and with arrests following the recent spate of online abuse targeted at a feminist activist and her supporters, as well as last night’s tweeted bomb threats against journalists, the numbers look likely to increase.

Government intervention

Twitter’s data only includes requests it’s allowed to report – the controversial secret orders that come, for example, from the US government via its spying agencies are not allowed to be revealed to the public.

“An important conversation has begun about the extent to which companies should be allowed to publish information regarding national security requests,” said legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel, in a blog post, saying Twitter has teamed up with others in the industry to “insist” the US government allow it to share such information.

“We believe it’s important to be able to publish numbers of national security requests – including FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] disclosures – separately from non-secret requests,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are still not able to include such metrics.”

Twitter also noted that it’s “withholding” content from accounts – preemptively removing tweets, but only in specific regions – from seven countries now, up from two last report. This includes the recent removal of hate speech messages in France, as well as drug- and suicide-related tweets in Russia, under its Federal Law 139, which blacklists illegal content.

However, Kessel said Twitter for the first time “un-withheld” content, after working with the affected users and the Russian authorities to bring the accounts “into compliance with local law”.

Copyright notices

Copyright notices make up the largest swathe of removed tweets, with 5,753 takedown notices filed against 22,399 users, up from 3,268 in the last report. However, only 61% led to tweets being removed, with 18,413 taken down.

While copyright notices are increasing for Twitter, it still receives fewer than Google – the search engine has had to manage 100 million takedown requests this year alone.

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