Twitter released its first ever Transparency Report detailing statistics on international requests for user data and content removal today, the same day news came out that it would have to hand over user information in a court case in New York.
The Twitter Transparency Report breaks down the countries from where such requests come and specifies how many requests it has received, what percentage it complied with, and numbers of user accounts affected, all spanning the first six months of this year.
The company has received more government requests in the first half of this year than in all of 2011, Jeremy Kessel, manager of legal policy at Twitter, wrote in a blog post. The company notifies affected users of requests for their account information unless it is prohibited from doing so by law.
In the U.S., Twitter fielded 679 requests for user information from Twitter, involving 948 accounts. There were 98 requests in Japan for information from 147 accounts, and Canada and the UK both had 11 requests, with the other countries listed as having fewer than 10. Twitter provided the information requested in 63 percent of the cases overall, but did not specify how many of the cases were made by governments seeking user data in connection with criminal investigations.
One of those cases involved a man arrested for disorderly conduct during an Occupy Wall Street protest on the Brooklyn Bridge last October. Twitter had challenged a subpoena seeking three months of user account information and tweets from the defendant's Twitter account, but a criminal court judge in New York this weekend ordered the social network to hand over the data.
The Transparency Report also offers information on the amount of content removal requests and copyright takedown notices Twitter has received so far this year, including requests from governments objecting to illegal content and others alleging content infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. "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," the report says.
There were two court-ordered content removal requests from Greece and one from Turkey. France, Pakistan, and the U.K., each had one removal request from a government agency, police, or other, but none of the content was removed. Meanwhile, Twitter received 3,378 copyright takedown notices over the past six months and complied in 38 percent of them, removing 5,275 tweets and 599 pieces of media. Twitter did not provide specifics of any of the cases.
In making this information public, Twitter is following in the footsteps of Google and its report of the same name. Google released its report in mid-June and said it had received more than 1,000 requests from governments around the world to remove items such as YouTube videos and search listings since the beginning of the year.
Kessel provides more explanation on the Twitter blog post:
One of our goals is to grow Twitter in a way that makes us proud. This ideal informs many of our policies and guides us in making difficult decisions. One example is our long-standing policy to proactively notify users of requests for their account information unless we're prohibited by law; another example is transmitting DMCA takedown notices and requests to withhold content to Chilling Effects. These policies help inform people, increase awareness and hold all involved parties -- including ourselves -- more accountable; the release of our first Transparency Report aims to further these ambitions.
Twitter will be releasing the report twice a year. The company also said it is partnering with Herdict, a site developed by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University where people can report Web sites that appear to be blocked or suffering from denial-of-service attacks.