Governments Heavy Handed on Social Media Content

July 21, 2021

In the US, government entities “ask” for data. In other countries, there may be different approaches; for example, having data pushed directly to government data lakes.

Governments around the world are paying a lot more attention to content on Twitter and other social media, we learn from, “Twitter Sees Big Jump in Gov’t Demands to Remove Content of Journalists” at TechCentral. According to data released by the platform, demands increased by 26% in the second half of last year. We wonder how many of these orders involved false information and how many simply contained content governments did not like. That detail is not revealed, but we do learn the 199 journalist and news outlet accounts were verified. The report also does not divulge which countries made the demands or which ones Twitter obliged. We do learn:

“Twitter said in the report that India was now the single largest source of all information requests from governments during the second half of 2020, overtaking the US, which was second in the volume of requests. The company said globally it received over 14,500 requests for information between 1 July and 31 December, and it produced some or all of the information in response to 30% of the requests. Such information requests can include governments or other entities asking for the identities of people tweeting under pseudonyms. Twitter also received more than 38,500 legal demands to take down various content, which was down 9% from the first half of 2020, and said it complied with 29% of the demands. Twitter has been embroiled in several conflicts with countries around the world, most notably India over the government’s new rules aimed at regulating content on social media. Last week, the company said it had hired an interim chief compliance officer in India and would appoint other executives in order to comply with the rules.”

Other platforms are also receiving scrutiny from assorted governments. In response to protests, for example, Cuba has restricted access to Facebook and messaging apps. Also recently, Nigeria banned Twitter altogether and prohibited TV and radio stations from using it as a source of information. Meanwhile, social media companies continue to face scrutiny for the presence of hate speech, false information, and propaganda on their sites. We are reminded CEOs Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Sundar Pichai of Google appeared in a hearing before the US congress on misinformation just last March. And most recently, all three platforms had to respond to criticisms over racist attacks against black players on England’s soccer team. Is it just me, or are these problems getting worse instead of better?

Cynthia Murrell, July 21, 2021

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