Governments Enhance Strain On Twitter To Censor Journalists

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Governments are increasingly demanding the removal of journalistic content from Twitter, the company’s latest transparency report shows.

In the second half of 2020, Twitter received 361 legal requests from governments to remove content from the verified accounts of 199 journalists and news outlets, 26 percent more than in the first half, according to Twitter.

In total, the company said it received 38,524 legal content removal requests with 131,933 accounts.

“Although the number of legal inquiries received on Twitter was 9 percent lower than in the previous reporting period, those inquiries aimed to remove content from the largest number of accounts ever in a single reporting period,” said Twitter.

Twitter removed some or all of the affected content 29 percent of the time – almost all of it was from Japan, India, Russia, Turkey, and South Korea.

Meanwhile, India has overtaken the US as the country with the most legal requests for account information, accounting for a quarter of the world’s total and 15 percent of the total number of accounts.

India recently passed new laws aimed at regulating social media companies more strictly and requiring them to appoint India-based chief compliance officers, nodal officers and complaints officers. The government has also stripped Twitter of its Safe Harbor immunity, which means that illegal content posted by users will no longer protect it from legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, the United States accounted for 22 percent of information requests and more than a third of emergency requests.

Twitter has also introduced a metric for tweets that violate its guidelines, saying that the impressions of those tweets accounted for less than 0.1 percent of the total impressions of all tweets worldwide.

Of the 3.8 million tweets removed for breaking rules, more than three-quarters received fewer than 100 impressions before they were viewed, and only six percent received more than 1,000 hits.

Enforcement of rule violations increased in several categories – 142 percent for abuse and harassment, 194 percent for non-consensual nudity, 77 percent for hateful behavior, and 175 percent for violations of civil integrity such as sharing misleading election information.

Meanwhile, the number of accounts aimed at promoting suicide and self-harm has nearly tripled.

Accounts banned for violating Twitter’s Child Sexual Exploitation Policy increased only 6 percent and bans for terrorism and violent extremism rose 35 percent.

However, according to Twitter, “different country-specific Covid-19 restrictions and adjustments in our teams affected the efficiency of our content moderation work and the speed with which we enforced our guidelines.”

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