ISLAMABAD: Pakistan sought removal and information of around 2400 accounts from Twitter during July-December 2018. This was revealed in the latest Twitter Transparency report. However, Twitter did not comply with any of the government requests to provide information or completely remove the account.
According to statistics shared in the latest report, Pakistan filed 143 removal requests and sought removal of 2349 accounts. While Twitter did not completely remove any of the account, it removed some content from 204 accounts for violating Twitter’s Terms of Reference.
Furthermore, the government filed 17 requests and sought information of 23 accounts through them.
Additionally, the government also filed two “Emergency disclosure” requests and sought information of seven accounts from Twitter. When such requests are filed, Twitter may disclose some information to law enforcement agencies if they meet the criteria. According to Twitter: “We evaluate such requests on a case by case basis to determine if there is information to support a good faith belief that there is an imminent threat involving danger of death or serious physical injury to a person. In these situations, if we have information relevant to averting or mitigating the threat, we may disclose that information to law enforcement.”
Moreover, Pakistan also filed two account preservation requests to preserve two accounts. Sharing what it means, Twitter says: “Government entities issue these requests so that information pertaining to an investigation stored by service providers like Twitter is temporarily saved while they go through the necessary steps to get the valid legal process required to lawfully obtain that information. Upon receipt of a valid preservation request, we will temporarily preserve, but not disclose, a snapshot of the relevant account information for 90 days pending issuance and service of valid legal process.”
Interestingly, Twitter did not comply with any of the information requests during this reporting period.
It is to be noted that during January-June, 2018, Pakistan sought information of 54 accounts from Twitter and requested removal of 3004 accounts. During the previous reporting period, Twitter did not comply with any of the account information or removal requests. However, it removed some content from 141 accounts for violation of its community standards.
27283 accounts reported to Twitter globally
During July-December 2018, Twitter received legal demands from 47 countries to remove 27283 accounts. 74% of these requests originated from two countries namely Russia and Turkey.
As compared to previous reporting period, Twitter said it received 8% fewer removal requests during this period.
As per the company’s procedure, it reviewed them for violating Twitter’s TORs and as a result, removed some content from 8720 accounts, withheld 2471 tweets and 184 accounts.
Twitter emphasised that it also refused to comply with account removal requests for a number of reasons. “There are several reasons for this, including where we requested further information, but the requester failed to provide any, or the request didn’t identify content on Twitter. In addition, we generally do not take action on newsworthy content or protected political speech as explained further below.”
During the above mentioned reporting period, legal requests against 253 verified accounts of journalists were also filed with Twitter globally. In response to these requests, Twitter shared: “In total, the following actions were taken: three Tweets were removed for violations of Twitter’s TOS, and three Tweets and one account were withheld in Turkey due to violations of Turkish anti-terrorism laws. Twitter withheld two Tweets in India based on a court order.”
Removal of terrorist content and child sexual exploitation:
Twitter also revealed that it suspended 166,513 accounts for promoting terrorism. “Of those suspensions, 91% consisted of accounts flagged by internal, purpose-built technological tools.”, said the company.
Furthermore, 456,989 unique accounts were suspended for violations related to child sexual exploitation. According to Twitter, “Of those unique accounts suspended, 96% were surfaced by a combination of technology solutions, including PhotoDNA and internal proprietary tools.”
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.