Facebook Releases ‘Global Government Requests Report,’ and It’s Not Good

The report gives insight into the rapid rise in censorship around the world.  (Image: Pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
The report gives insight into the rapid rise in censorship around the world. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Facebook has released its biannual “Global Government Requests Report” in its ongoing effort to share more information about the requests they received from governments around the world. In this report, it shows governments’ requests for user data and the blocking of content has increased significantly since last year.

The report covers 93 countries during the first half of this year.

The U.S. surpasses all other countries with 26,579 requests for user data.

Facebook provided 17,577 requests, or nearly 80 percent. Then India came in second with 6,268 requests, and the U.K. come in third with 4,489 requests.

India came in first with governments blocking Facebook content in their country, with 15,155 posts being restricted. This is over three times that of Turkey, which came in second with 4,496 posts.

All this means that Facebook removed 20,568 posts along with other content that violated local laws, making it more than double the amount taken down in the second half of 2014. Some of the content taken down in Germany, for example, may relate to Holocaust denial, Facebook said.

Facebook stresses that:

“We’re publishing this information about requests related to our various products and services (including Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram) because we want people to understand the nature and extent of these requests, and the strict policies and processes we have in place to handle them.

“As part of official investigations, government officials sometimes request data about people who use Facebook. The vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. In many of these cases, the government is requesting basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. Requests may also ask for IP address logs or account content.

“We have strict processes in place to handle these government requests. Every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency. We require officials to provide a detailed description of the legal and factual basis for their request, and we push back when we find legal deficiencies or overly broad or vague demands for information. We frequently share only basic subscriber information.”

Governments are increasingly relying on Facebook’s user data to help investigate criminal cases, which are responsible for most of the requests. “Facebook does not provide any government with ‘back doors’ or direct access to people’s data,” the company’s deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby said.

“We scrutinize each request we receive for legal sufficiency, whether from an authority in the U.S., Europe, or elsewhere; if a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back hard and will fight in court, if necessary.”

Last year, Facebook, Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., and Alphabet Inc., formerly Google, began publishing details about government requests for data they receive. The report gives insight into the rapid rise in censorship around the world.

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