Governments Worldwide Pressured Twitter to Censor in 2020

Twitter released its latest Transparency Report on Wednesday, revealing that in the latter half of 2020, there was a 26% increase in requests from international governments to remove posts from verified journalists.

The report tracks various data from July 1 to December 31, 2020, including global legal requests and Twitter Rules enforcement.

Global legal requests are divided between information requests and removal requests. Twitter received over 14,500 global government information requests, and over 38,500 global legal demands to remove content.

According to the report, “94% of the total global volume of legal demands originated from only five countries (in decreasing order): Japan, India, Russia, Turkey, and South Korea.”

Of the information requests received, Twitter announced that they “produced some or all of the requested information in response to 30%” of information requests, totaling 4,367 requests at least partially granted. They identified India as “the single largest source of government information requests, accounting for 25% of the global volume and 15% of the global accounts specified.” The second largest requester was the United States, “comprising 22% of global information requests.”

It is worth noting that Twitter is banned in China, and that global internet access is banned in North Korea.

As for removal requests, Twitter received over 38,000 legal demands to remove content from over 130,000 accounts. Twitter reported that they “withheld or otherwise removed some or all of the reported content in response to 29% of these global legal demands” (a total of 11,091 at least partially granted).

Twitter clarified that the total number of requests had decreased by 9% since the previous reporting period, but that the requests they did receive “sought removal of content from the largest number of accounts ever in a single reporting period.”

What has especially captured headlines has been the increase in global legal requests to remove the content of verified journalists:

Accounts of 199 verified journalists and news outlets from around the world were subject to 361 legal demands, a 26% increase in these requests since the previous reporting period.

An update to the Twitter Transparency Center, published July 14, 2021

Twitter reports that they withheld a total of 5 tweets from verified journalists and news outlets – 4 from Brazil, and 1 from France.

Social media platforms like Twitter have come under heavy scrutiny for the way they have moderated content, particularly over the past year-and-a-half. Some governments – such as Poland and the state of Florida – have introduced legislation meant to protect the free speech rights of online users from unfair censorship. Other government interests, particularly in the United States, are concerned that social media companies are not doing enough to keep misinformation and hate speech off their platforms.

Twitter continues to monitor their sites for harmful and abusive content. In their report, they celebrated that 65% of the abusive content they took action against was discovered by their machine learning technology and brought to human review.

As a result of their continued use of machine learning technology, “there was a 142% increase in accounts actioned, compared to the previous reporting period…”


You may also wish to read:

Twitter twitted over clumsy political censorship. Jonathan Bartlett: Getting the algorithm to censor users can backfire and sometimes the results are funny. MIT’s Technology Review shows that Twitter’s attempted censorship doubled the exposure of the New York Post article about Hunter Biden. (Jonathan Bartlett)

and

Finally, someone is seriously suing Twitter Twitter is now being sued in Canada because Canada does not offer the protections accorded to the social medium that it has enjoyed in the United States. Canadian mining billionaire Giustra had enough of false accusations of child molestation on Twitter. (Caitlin Bassett)

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