Twitter: U.S. Tops List of Governments Requesting User Information

Twitter released its first Transparency Report that disclosed how many demands for user information it received from governments around the world. As expected, U.S. government agencies filed the most requests.

Taking a page from Google, Twitter released a report Monday, July 2 detailing the government requests for user information.

As was the case with Google, U.S. government agencies led the way in demanding user information. Between Jan. 1 and June 30 2012, Twitter received 679 requests from the U.S. government pertaining to 948 users. Twitter complied either partially or completely with 75 percent of the requests. Japan had the second-highest total of government requests, with 98 tied to 147 users. Of those, Twitter responded to 20 percent.

€œWe€™ve received more government requests in the first half of 2012, as outlined in this initial data set, than in the entirety of 2011,€ blogged Jeremy Kessel, manager of legal policy at Twitter.

Most of the time, government requests for user account information are made in connection with criminal investigations, Twitter said. Just recently, a judge in New York ordered the microblogging service to comply with a request from prosecutors to turn over the deleted tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protestor. Twitter had tried to fight off efforts to turn over the information after it was subpoenaed by prosecutors.

According to Twitter, it may not comply with a request for a variety of reasons, including if the requester failed to identify a Twitter user account or if the request is viewed as overly broad.

There were a few demands from governments around the world that Twitter remove certain content from the microblogging site. Twitter reported that it did not comply with any of those requests during that time period.

Governments generally request the removal of content that may be illegal in their respective jurisdictions, the company explained. For example, a government agency may obtain a court order requiring the removal of defamatory statements, or law enforcement may request the company remove content that is prohibited by law or government policy.

Twitter also received 3,378 copyright takedown notices between January and June. Those requests affected 5,874 accounts, the company reported. Overall, the material in question was removed 38 percent of the time.

€œOne of our goals is to grow Twitter in a way that makes us proud,€ Kessel blogged. €œThis 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 €¦ 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.€

€œMoving forward, we€™ll be publishing an updated version of this information twice a year,€ he added.