REPORT: Facebook Sees More Government Requests for Content Restrictions

By David Cohen Comment

GovernmentRequestsReport2H2014Facebook continued to see an increase in requests by governments for content restrictions in the second half of 2014, but requests for account data only saw a slight uptick, according to its most recent global Government Requests Report, released Monday.

The social network said it restricted 9,707 pieces of content in the second half of 2014, up from 8,774 in the first half of the year, adding that government requests for account data rose marginally, to 35,051 from 34,946.

The top 10 countries in the latest global Government Requests Report in terms of requests for user data (number of users referenced in parentheses) were:

  1. U.S., 14,274 (21,731)
  2. India, 5,473 (7,281)
  3. U.K., 2,366 (2,890)
  4. Germany, 2,132 (2,611)
  5. France, 2,094 (2,885)
  6. Italy, 1,774 (2,696)
  7. Brazil, 1,212 (1,967)
  8. Australia, 829 (933)
  9. Spain, 500 (1,041)
  10. Argentina, 482 (708)

And the list of countries with content restrictions follows:

  1. India, 5,832
  2. Turkey, 3,624
  3. Germany, 60
  4. Russia, 55
  5. Pakistan, 54
  6. Thailand, 30
  7. Israel, 15
  8. France, 13
  9. Norway, 5
  10. Myanmar, 5
  11. U.K., 3
  12. Brazil, 3
  13. Australia, 3
  14. Italy, 1
  15. Argentina, 1
  16. Belgium, 1
  17. New Zealand, 1
  18. Kazakhstan, 1

Facebook head of global policy management Monika Bickert and deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby offered more details in a Newsroom post:

The global Government Requests Report, which covers the second half of 2014, includes information about the government requests we received for content removal and account data, as well as national-security requests under the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters.

Overall, we continue to see an increase in government requests for data and content restrictions. The amount of content restricted for violating local law increased by 11 percent over the previous half, to 9,707 pieces of content restricted, up from 8,774. We saw a rise in content restriction requests from countries like Turkey and Russia, and declines in places like Pakistan.

The number of government requests for account data remained relatively flat, with a slight increase to 35,051 from 34,946. There was an increase in data requests from certain governments such as India, and decline in requests from countries such as the U.S. and Germany.

We publish this information because we want people to know the extent and nature of the requests we receive from governments and the policies we have in place to process them.

Moving forward, we will continue to scrutinize each government request and push back when we find deficiencies. We will also continue to push governments around the world to reform their surveillance practices in a way that maintains the safety and security of their people while ensuring that their rights and freedoms are protected.

And Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg went into yet more detail in a post of his own:

Today we released our latest global Government Requests Report and updated our community standards. The first report lists the requests we’ve received from governments around the world during the second half of 2014. The second provides greater clarity around the rules and limits of what you can share in our community.

Questions about free expression and how governments regulate it are some of the most difficult and important issues we face. People rightfully want to know what content we will take down, what controversial content we’ll leave up and why. I care deeply and feel a responsibility to handle this thoughtfully for our community. This is a good opportunity for me to explain our philosophy.

Our mission is to give people the power to share and to make the world more open and connected. We exist to give you a voice to share what matters to you — from photos of your family to opinions about the world. We believe the better you can share and connect, the more progress society will make. Relationships grow stronger, more jobs and businesses are created and governments better reflect people’s values.

As difficult questions arise about the limits of what people can share, we have a single guiding principle: We want to give the most voice to the most people.

Having a voice is not some absolute state. It’s not the case that you either have a voice or you don’t. It’s not black-and-white. When you have access to the Internet, you have more voice. When you have better tools for sharing, you have more voice. When you have fewer laws limiting your speech, you have more voice. When you do not live in fear of social isolation or violence if you express yourself, you have more voice.

Every day we work to give more voice to more people. This means connecting everyone in the world through Internet.org so the two-thirds of people who are not yet connected have the ability to communicate like you can. It means building services like Facebook and WhatsApp so you can easily share what matters to you. It means protecting you from bullying and harassment, so you feel safe expressing yourself. And it means pushing back on illegal government requests to censor you and restrict your expression.

Readers: Did anything in the global Government Requests Report for the second half of 2014 surprise you?

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