Twitter Would Like to Be More Transparent, If They Could
Twitter has just released their fifth-ever transparency report, and it shows that requests for user data, content removal, and copyright takedowns are all on the rise.
But the main focus of Twitter’s announcement isn’t really the report itself – instead, Twitter takes a lot of care to express their unhappiness with the US government, specifically the Department of Justice and their rules on how and how much information about national security requests can be revealed to users.
“As we alluded to in our last post, earlier this year we met with officials from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Washington to push for our ability to provide greater transparency concerning national security requests. Specifically, if the government will not allow us to publish the actual number of requests, we want the freedom to provide that information in much smaller ranges that will be more meaningful to Twitter’s users, and more in line with the relatively small number of non-national security information requests we receive,” says Twitter.
Twitter references DOJ guidelines that limit how specific service providers can be when discussing national security requests with users. For instance, when reporting on the number of National Security Letters received, companies can only report in “bands of 1,000.” It’s the same for FISA requests. That’s why you’ll see some companies report these numbers as “we’ve received (0 – 999) requests of this nature.”
Like Google, who began including the incredibly unspecific volume of national security requests in its Transparency Reports back in March of last year.
Twitter, on the other hand, would rather not include this information at all if they are going to be handcuffed to such an extreme.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to make any progress at this meeting, and we were not satisfied with the restrictions set forth by the DOJ. So in early April, we sent a draft midyear Transparency Report to DOJ that presented relevant information about national security requests, and asked the Department to return it to us, indicating which information (if any) is classified or otherwise cannot lawfully be published. At this point, over 90 days have passed, and we still have not received a reply.”
And so, Twitter’s transparency report has no info on national security requests.
What is does show is that worldwide, there has been a 46 percent increase in governmental user data requests, a 14 percent increase in content removal requests, and a 38 percent increase in copyright takedown requests.
You can read the whole report here.
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