Four surprising discoveries from Twitter's latest transparency data

 
Emma Haslett
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Twitter has complained vociferously about the number of requests it receives from governments (Source: Getty)

Twitter has released the latest round of its bi-annual transparency data, showing requests for removal of data, account information and copyright notices from both governments and private individuals.

The company has been making its data available since 2012, when it and other tech giants complained that governments were forcing them to disclose data they'd rather not give away.

So what have we learned this time around?

1. The Russian government had never made a request until the second half of 2014

While other countries have been merrily blasting Twitter with requests for information about how people are using their accounts, the Russian government has stayed quiet - until the second half of 2014, when it suddenly made 108 account information requests, making it the country with the fourth-largest number of requests (although Twitter was clear that it hadn't complied with any).

Elsewhere, the number of content removal requests from Russian government agencies increased from 14 in the second half of 2013 to 89 in the same period of 2014, while the number of court orders to remove content rose from zero to two.

2. Requests from the UK have increased by a factor of 10 since the start of 2012

The UK government has become more paranoid about social media: the number of information requests has increased from 11 at the start of 2012 to 116 at the end of 2014. Removal requests from the government has also leaped, from one at the beginning of 2012 to 18 at the end of 2014.

It doesn't look like it's had much success, though. The UK government got zero tweets and zero accounts withheld. In fact, the most it's ever managed to get withheld is two tweets over one six-month period, in the first half of 2014.

3. The US comprises more than half of information requests

Twitter has publicly complained about secret surveillance requests from the US government, to the extent where it has filed a lawsuit seeking greater transparency in national security reporting.

The company is clearly frustrated: in the final six months of 2014, Twitter received 2,871 information requests from national governments, 1,622 of which came from the United States. The runners-up filed a fraction of that number, with the second-most interested country, Turkey, filing just 356 requests.

4. Government requests for information have doubled since 2013

Governments are clearly more concerned about how social media is being used by their enemies. In the second half of 2013, state agencies filed 1,410 information requests, less than half the 2,871 received during the same period last year.

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