Facebook Releases Second Global Government Requests Report, Adds Requests To Restrict, Remove Content

By David Cohen 

GlobalGovernmentRequestsReport650Facebook announced the release of the second edition of its Global Government Requests Report, and this time around, it added government requests to restrict or remove content to the information it previously provided on government requests for account information.

Country-by-country results are embedded below, and the top five countries in terms of requests for user data from July through December 2013 were:

  1. U.S.: 12,598 requests for user data, 18,715 user accounts referenced
  2. India: 3,598/4,711
  3. U.K.: 1,906/2,277
  4. Italy: 1,699/2,613
  5. Germany: 1,687/1,950

Facebook complied with 100 percent of the requests from four countries, but the totals were exceptionally low: Cyprus (three), Ivory Coast (one), Kosovo (one), and Serbia (one).

On the other end of the spectrum, no information at all was surrendered to Armenia (one request), Bahrain (one), Bhutan (one), Botswana (one), Cambodia (one), Ecuador (two), Egypt (six), Greenland (two), Kazakhstan (two), Kuwait (four), Lebanon (12), Luxembourg (two), Macau (one), Nepal (two), Oman (three), Palestine (four), Peru (two), Qatar (three), Russia (one), South Africa (three), South Korea (one), Sri Lanka (one), Sudan (four), Thailand (two), Uganda (one), United Arab Emirates (two), and Uruguay (one).

Finally, India and Turkey blew away the field in terms of government requests to restrict or remove content, with 4,765 and 2,014, respectively. The full list follows:

Facebook Vice President and General Counsel Colin Stretch said in announcing the second Global Government Requests Report:

People around the world want to understand the nature and extent of government requests services like Facebook receive, and how companies respond to them.

Today we are releasing our second Government Requests Report. We have expanded on our first report to include information not only about government requests for account information, but also about government requests to restrict or remove content from our service on the grounds that it violates local law.

Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share, and to make the world more open and connected. Sometimes, the laws of a country interfere with that mission, by limiting what can be shared there. When we receive a government request seeking to enforce those laws, we review it with care, and, even where we conclude that it is legally sufficient, we only restrict access to content in the requesting country. We do not remove content from our service entirely unless we determine that it violates our community standards. We take a similar approach to government requests for account information. When we receive a request for information, we carefully assess whether we are legally required to comply. As we have long emphasized, we push back on requests that are overly broad, vague, or do not comply with legal standards. When we are required to provide information, in most instances, we share basic information only — such as name and IP address.

Since our last report, we have continued to push governments to authorize greater transparency about their actions, and to provide such transparency themselves. In December 2013, we and others in the industry launched Reform Government Surveillance, which set out principles advocating for more transparency and reform of surveillance laws and practices around the world. In addition, in the U.S., we worked with others to push the U.S. government to allow us and other companies to provide insight into the volume and nature of national security-related requests for account information that we receive.

These are important steps, but much more remains to be done. Recent news accounts of alleged surveillance efforts by the U.S. government in other countries reinforce the importance of ensuring that all governments around the world seek access to user account information only through lawful process. We will continue to advocate for that principle, and for the additional transparency and accountability measures necessary to rebuild people’s trust in the Internet.

Readers: Did any of the information revealed in Facebook’s latest Global Government Requests Report surprise you?

Facebook Global Government Requests Report