Twitter Reports 82% Rise in Accounts Actioned in Second Half of 2020, Provides Update on Privacy Policy

Twitter in its transparency report for July 2020 to December 2020 reported an 82 percent increase in accounts actioned and a 132 percent increase in content removed, compared to the previous reporting period.

In total, the social media platform took action on 3.5 million accounts, suspended 1.0 million accounts and removed 4.5 million pieces of content.

Twitter said its operations were affected by two key events in the second half of 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic and a security incident in July 2020. As a result of “overall significant increase in actions taken across most policy areas” during the second half, Twitter is introducing a new metric – impressions – for enforcement actions. Impressions capture the number of views a tweet received prior to removal.

From July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, Twitter removed 3.8 million tweets, of which 77 percent received less than 100 impressions, with an additional 17 percent receiving between 100 and 1000 impressions. Only 6 percent of removed tweets had over 1000 impressions. Overall, impressions on violative tweets accounted for less than 0.1 percent of all impressions for all tweets during the time period.

Twitter also reported a 9 percent increase in accounts suspended as compared to the previous reporting period.

Topping the count for violative conduct was hateful conduct, with 1.1 million accounts actioned, followed by 964,459 accounts actioned for abuse/harassment, 706,979 accounts actioned for sensitive content and 469,439 accounts actioned for child sexual exploitation.

The platform noted that enforcements increased during the general U.S. elections in November 2020.

Government requests

Twitter said it saw a 15 percent rise in global information requests and a 102 percent increase in global accounts specified, compared to the last reporting period. The social media platform also reported a 18 percent decrease in global compliance rate.

“The total volume of requests and specified accounts are respectively the largest we’ve seen to date. Twitter produced some or all of the requested information in response to 30 percent of these information requests,” the tech giant said.

Topping this list was India, accounting for 25 percent of the global volume and 15 percent of the global accounts specified. The second highest volume of requests originated from the United States, making up 22 percent of global information requests and 60 percent of the global accounts specified.

Japan and France, which comprised 17 percent and 14 percent of the global volume, respectively, round out the top four countries by volume. Combined, these four countries accounted for 78% of all global information requests during this reporting period.

“Notably, this is the first time since we started publishing our transparency report in 2012 where the United States is not the top global requester,” Twitter remarked in the report.

Twitter has now received government information requests from 96 different countries since 2012, including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Latvia, and Morocco, which appeared in this report for the first time.

Additionally, Twitter received 573 information requests from non-government parties around the world, which usually include civil actions and requests made by criminal defendants, where they are typically seeking account information in support of their cases. The app has now received non-government information requests from 32 different countries since 2014, including Luxembourg and Russia, both of which appeared in this report for the first time.

Twitter received 86 percent more non-government information requests during this reporting period. Notably, the number of accounts specified in these requests increased by 127 percent, while the compliance rate increased to 48 percent.

Privacy and security

Twitter recommends using two-factor authentication (2FA), which includes sending a unique code to the phone number linked to an account, using a mobile app to generate a unique code, or using a security key. While SMS-based 2FA is the least secure, using a security key is the most secure type.

Twitter reported that only 2.3 percent of users have at least one form of 2FA enabled for their accounts, of which 79.6 percent use SMS-based 2FA, 30.9 percent use the authentication app and 0.5 percent use a security key.

Twitter said there was a 9.1 percent increase in the number of active accounts with at least one 2FA method enabled over the reporting period from July 2020 to December 2020.

Twitter’s privacy policy

Twitter has also provided a recap of the changes made to its terms of service and privacy policy, effective August 19, 2021.

Twitter Spaces, made for live audio conversations, will share more details about what participating in or hosting a Space means for user data. Twitter said it analyses data from Spaces to provide audio transcripts, to review for potential violations of its rules, and to make improvements to the way the feature works.

Twitter Blue, which is currently available in Canada and Australia, is Twitter’s “first ever premium subscription offering.” Subscribers can receive access to exclusive features and premium customer support after paying a monthly fee. Twitter is updating its terms and conditions to reflect this new offering and reference additional terms applicable to the service.

Twitter also said that when users make a payment to the app or send money via Twitter, including through an intermediary, the company may receive information about the transaction, like when it was made or when it is set to expire or auto-renew.

Twitter also recently updated the way videos autoplay on the app, including videos from third-party partners. When users interact with content from these partners, they may receive and process some data as described in their privacy policies. Users can adjust autoplay settings if they do not want access to the autoplay feature.

Lastly, Twitter said it does not sell personal data, which is now reflected in its updated privacy policy. It also clarified how it protects data when it is transferred outside the country a user resides in.

Romessa Nadeem is a Project Coordinator at Media Matters for Democracy, which runs the Digital Rights Monitor.

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