Facebook: Government Content-Restriction Requests Soar in Second Half of 2015

Facebook received 55,827 requests from governments to restrict content that violated local laws in the second half of 2015, up a staggering 271.4 percent from 20,568 in the first half of 2015.

Facebook received 55,827 requests from governments to restrict content that violated local laws in the second half of 2015, up a staggering 271.4 percent from 20,568 in the first half of 2015.

The social network also said in its Global Government Requests Report for July through December 2015 that government requests for account data rose 13 percent, to 46,763 in the second half of 2015 from 41,214 in the first half.

The top 10 countries in terms of requests for content restrictions were:

  1. France, 37,695
  2. India, 14,971
  3. Turkey, 2,078
  4. Germany, 366
  5. Israel, 236
  6. Austria, 231
  7. U.K., 97
  8. Russia, 56
  9. Brazil, 34
  10. Kazakhstan, 25

And the top 10 countries in terms of requests for account data were:

  1. U.S., 19,235 from 30,041 accounts
  2. India, 5,561 from 7,018 accounts
  3. U.K., 4,190 from 5,478 accounts
  4. Germany, 3,140 from 3,628 accounts
  5. France, 2,711 from 2,894 accounts
  6. Brazil, 1,655 from 2,673 accounts
  7. Italy, 1,525 from 2,598 accounts
  8. Argentina, 892 from 1,047 accounts
  9. Australia, 802 from 846 accounts
  10. Poland, 611 from 627 accounts

Facebook deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby said in a Newsroom post announcing the availability of the new Global Government Requests Report:

We’ve added several case studies to give people actual examples of government requests to restrict content and the resulting actions taken by Facebook. For instance, one of the case studies explains that the increase in restricted content in this half is almost entirely due to one photo related to the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The photo was alleged to violate French laws related to protecting human dignity. We restricted access to more than 32,000 copies of the photo, in France only, in response to a legal request from the French government.

For the first time, we are also reporting information about nondisclosure orders: approximately 60 percent of the requests we received for user data from authorities in the U.S. contained nondisclosure orders that prohibited us from notifying the user. Finally, consistent with legal changes in the U.S., we’ve updated our reporting on national security requests to bands of 500 (instead of bands of 1,000) for both the current and previous reports.

As we have emphasized many times, Facebook does not provide any government with “back doors” or direct access to people’s data. We scrutinize each request for user data we receive for legal sufficiency, no matter which country is making the request. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary.

Readers: What did you think of the latest Global Government Requests Report from Facebook?