July 31, 2021

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Governments Increase Pressure On Twitter To Censor Journalists

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Governments are increasingly demanding the removal of journalist content from Twitter, the company’s latest Transparency Report shows.

During the second half of 2020, says Twitter, it received 361 legal requests from governments to remove content from the verified accounts of 199 journalists and news outlets, up 26 per cent on the first half of the year.

Overall, the company says it received 38,524 legal demands to remove content specifying 131,933 accounts.

“Although there was a nine per cent decrease in the number of legal demands Twitter received, compared to the previous reporting period, these requests sought removal of content from the largest number of accounts ever in a single reporting period,” says Twitter.

Twitter removed some or all of the content concerned in 29 per cent of cases — almost all of which came from Japan, India, Russia, Turkey and South Korea.

Meanwhile, India has overtaken the US as the country making the most legal requests for information about accounts, representing a quarter of the total global volume and 15 per cent of the total number of accounts.

India has recently introduced new legislation aimed at regulating social media companies more tightly, and requiring them to appoint India-based chief compliance officers, nodal officers and grievance officers. The government has also stripped Twitter of its safe harbor immunity, meaning it is no longer protected from legal proceedings in the event of unlawful content posted by users.

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The US, meanwhile, accounted for 22 per cent of information requests, and more than a third of emergency requests.

Twitter has also introduced a metric for tweets that violate its policies, and says that impressions on these tweets accounted for less than 0.1 per cent of all impressions for all tweets globally.

Of the 3.8 million tweets it removed for violating rules, more than three quarters received fewer than 100 impressions before they were pulled, with only six per cent getting more than 1,000 hits.

Enforcement of rule violation was up in several categories — by 142 per cent in the case of abuse and harassment, 194 per cent for non-consensual nudity, 77 per cent for hateful conduct and 175 per cent for civic integrity violations such as the sharing of misleading election information.

Meanwhile, the number of accounts targeted for promoting suicide and self-harm nearly tripled.

There was only a six per cent rise in the number of accounts suspended for violations of Twitter’s child sexual exploitation policy, and a 35 per cent fall in suspensions for terrorism and violent extremism.

However, says Twitter, “Varying country-specific Covid-19 restrictions and adjustments within our teams affected the efficiency of our content moderation work and the speed with which we enforced our policies.”

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