New data, new insights: Twitter’s latest #Transparency Report

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

With our 11th biannual Twitter Transparency Report, Twitter has expanded on work announced in our last #TTR to share more information about government Terms of Service requests we receive and how we handle such requests. In March of 2017, we introduced a new section covering government TOS reports, but it was limited to government requests to remove content under our prohibition of the promotion of terrorism. Today, we have expanded this section to cover a broader array of categories under the Twitter Rules, adding: abusive behavior, copyright, and trademark.

Government TOS reports filed under areas covered by the ‘Abusive Behavior’ section of the Twitter Rules accounted for 98% of global government TOS reports. We took action in response to 13% of these requests, with the majority of requests resulting in no content removal. This was due to a variety of reasons, such as the reporter failing to identify content on Twitter or our investigation finding that the reported content did not violate our Terms. As we take an objective approach to processing global Terms of Service reports, the fact that the reporters in these cases happened to be government officials had no bearing on whether any action was taken under our Rules.

Removing terrorist content

The second largest volume, a little more than 2% of global reports, fell within the promotion of terrorism category. Under this category of reports, we are referring to accounts that actively incite or promote violence associated with internationally recognized terrorist organizations, promote internationally recognized terrorist organizations, and accounts attempting to evade prior enforcement.

Twitter’s continued commitment to eliminate such activity from our platform has resulted in an 80% reduction in accounts reported by governments compared to the previous reporting period of July 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016. Notably, government requests accounted for less than 1% of account suspensions for the promotion of terrorism during the first half of this year. Instead, 95% of these account suspensions were the result of our internal efforts to combat this content with proprietary tools, up from 74% in our last Transparency Report. Between accounts surfaced by both our internal tools and government reports, Twitter removed 299,649 accounts during this reporting period, a 20% drop from the previous reporting period. Notably, 75% of these accounts were suspended before posting their first Tweet.

We have suspended a total of 935,897 accounts for the promotion of terrorism in the period of August 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017. For more details, please refer to our latest government TOS reports section.

Increasing transparency

We’ve also updated the remainder of our biannual report with data covering January through June, 2017. During this time, Twitter received 6% more global government requests for account information that affected 3% fewer accounts than in the previous period, including requests that originated from four new countries: Nepal, Paraguay, Panama, and Uruguay. In addition, we received approximately 3% more global legal requests to remove content impacting 8% more accounts compared to the previous reporting period. These included requests from nine new countries: Bahrain, Croatia, Finland, Nepal, Paraguay, Poland, Qatar, Ukraine, and Uruguay.

Broadening and deepening our US transparency reporting

In addition, we’ve continued to expand our US country report. In this latest version, we’ve included a breakdown of California state information requests at the county level, with plans to introduce this section to other states in future reports. Notably, Los Angeles County came in as the top requesting county, submitting 44% of total California state information requests. Providing this increased level of granularity should further help our users get a better idea of how frequently their local authorities seek user account information.

US law and #Transparency

As in past reports, Twitter is not reporting national security requests in the bands mandated by the USAFA. Where gag orders on National Security Letters have been lifted, we have included the actual numbers of requests. With regard to other national security requests we may have received, we continue to litigate government restrictions preventing us from sharing more granular information in our case Twitter v. Sessions (f.k.a. Twitter v. Lynch). In February 2017, a hearing was held on the government’s motion for summary judgment, where the US government argued that the case should be decided in its favor because it had met the applicable requirements for showing that Twitter’s 2014 draft Transparency Report was properly classified. On July 6, 2017, the court denied the government's motion for a summary judgment finding that the government submission did not satisfy the requirements of the First Amendment. On September 5, 2017, the government filed a motion for reconsideration, motivated primarily by the 9th Circuit decision in  EFF’s NSL litigation. Twitter will be filing its opposition to the government motion shortly.

Twitter will continue to act on our commitment to #transparency, and we encourage you to read more about all these updates in our latest report.


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