While social media platforms sometimes take action themselves to remove disingenuous content or material that violates their rules, another fairly common content takedown request comes from governments themselves. According to a new report, Twitter saw a record number of such requests in the last year.
Twitter has published its transparency report for the first half of the previous year, detailing some statistics about takedown requests. Governments around the world requested to remove content from a record number of accounts between January and June of 2021, with 43,387 legal requests to remove the content of 196,878 accounts being issued during the six-month period. This has been the largest number of accounts targeted with removal requests by governments ever since Twitter started releasing transparency reports back in 2012.
95% of these demands came from only five countries: namely Japan, Russia, Turkey, India, and South Korea. In response to 54% of these demands, Twitter either blocked the content in some countries or demanded users to delete it. Twitter's vice president of global public policy and philanthropy Sinead McSweeney is quoted as saying:
We’re facing unprecedented challenges as governments around the world increasingly attempt to intervene and remove content. This threat to privacy and freedom of expression is a deeply worrying trend that requires our full attention. Today’s update to the Twitter Transparency Center highlights our long-standing commitment to meaningful transparency and the pressing, urgent need to defend the free, secure, and global Open Internet.
It is important to note the scale of the uptick in government takedown requests during the January-June 2021 period in comparison to others. There was a 50% increase in the number of accounts reported compared to six months prior, with the legal requests to remove content also jumping by 14% in comparison to the previous reporting period.
Meanwhile, takedown requests for accounts owned by journalists and news outlets decreased by 14%. Twitter doesn't explain in its blog post about what global factors caused legal demands for takedowns to escalate but you can check out a summary of its findings and other interesting statistics here.