US Government Leads Twitter Data Requests

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

American authorities make way more demands for Twitter to share user details

The US government makes hundreds more requests for information on Twitter users than authorities in other countries, a transparency report from the social networking company has revealed.

According to Twitter’s data, between January and June 2012, the US made 679 user information requests, 75 percent of which it received some data from. The US wanted data relating to 948 user accounts in total.

Other nations were far less thorough, with Japan in second as it asked for 98 user information requests, 20 percent of which it received some data on.

UK not so intrusive

The UK showed comparatively little interest in Twitter users, making just 11 user information requests on 11 user accounts. It was only successful in gaining data on 18 percent of requests.

Details on formal government applications to remove or withhold content on Twitter were also published, showing no success for any of them. The UK government made just one request, covering 10 accounts, which was not successful.

“Governments generally make removal requests for content that may be illegal in their respective jurisdictions,” Twitter said in its report. “For example, a government agency may obtain a court order requiring the removal of defamatory statements or law enforcement may request us to remove prohibited content.”

Google said last month it had received “alarming” requests from various governments to remove politically-motivated content from its services.

Twitter receives far more copyright takedown notices than government requests for data, however. Over the last six months it received 3378 requests to remove content that allegedly infringes copyright law. In almost 40 percent of cases, material was removed.

Twitter has had to deal with a number of contentious cases in recent years. Paul Chambers, the Twitter user fined after he cracked a joke about destroying South Yorkshire’s Robin Hood Airport, is still in limbo as judgement has been reserved in his appeal case.

The micro-blogging service recently said it is planning to clamp down on “horrific” abuse, following issues with so-called ‘trolls’.

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