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Demands to block Twitter content jumped in 2013: report

Calls from governments and copyright holders to remove or block Twitter content increased fivefold in the second half of 2013.

22.03.2014 - Update : 22.03.2014
Demands to block Twitter content jumped in 2013: report


Amid ongoing controversy over Turkey’s block on the social media site Twitter, information from the company’s own ‘Transparency Report’ has revealed that the number of demands made by government and other officials worldwide for Twitter to remove allegedly illegal content increased fivefold last year.

France tops this list of countries, having produced 305 such demands of Twitter in the period July-December 2013. Russia was next with 14 demands while Turkey only produced two demands.

According to Twitter’s report, which includes account information requests to Twitter in 2013, there was a substantial increase in the requests made by governments and copyright holders.

Such requests were investigated under three categories: information requests by governments; removal requests by governments; and copyright notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In the second half of 2013, these requests increased by 22 percent as compared to the previous period.

The United States ranked first with 59 percent of total information requests made by the governments. Japan was next on 15 percent and then France and the UK each with 4 percent. Turkey’s requests only accounted for less than 10 percent of the total of 1,410 cases examined.

Removal requests by governments and other authorities increased by fivefold as compared to the previous period. France accounted for 305 out of a total of 365 requests in the second half of 2013. Russia followed France with 14 requests while Turkey sent only two requests in total.

The Transparency Report also revealed the rising number of requests regarding copyright issues. Removal decisions, which increased by 16 percent compared to the previous period, affected 12,343 accounts in total. Just over 26,500 tweets were deleted and 5,847 media content postings were removed. Most of the requests originated from the U.S., according to the report.


- Worldwide practices on banning access to Twitter

The report cites examples from certain countries regarding their requests and practices on restricting access to Twitter:

Germany: In October 2013, Twitter blocked Neo-Nazi accounts at the request of the German government. Twitter applied the “country-withheld content” rule for the first time. This rule meant that the relevant content was blocked throughout Germany – or the country requesting a restriction on the content – although access was allowed in the other countries.

France: On October 2012, Twitter removed anti-Semitic and racist tweets written and circulated in France. #UnBonJuif (#AGoodJew) tagged tweets included photos about the Holocaust. Twitter removed this content following a statement from the Union des Etudiants Juifs de France (UEJF) regarding legal action.

India: The Indian government banned group messaging within the country following violence which started in Assam in July 2012 between the Bodo population and Muslims. The government also warned social networking sites such as Facebook (with more than 50 million Indian users) and Twitter to take necessary actions on provocative messages. Google, Facebook and Twitter declared that they were in collaboration with the Indian government.

United Kingdom: British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that access to Twitter might be blocked in order to prevent sharing provocative content during riots which broke out in London and other English cities in 2011, but no measures were taken as the riots faded.


- Access to Twitter blocked as a 'preventive measure'

"The decision for the preventive measure against Twitter has been taken in response to its defiance to comply with hundreds of court rulings since last January," said a statement released Saturday by Turkey's Telecommunications Authority, which enforced a decision to restrict access to Twitter.

Prior to this preventive measure, the Telecommunications Authority was notified of Turkish court rulings on violations of personal rights and the right to privacy; Twitter was urged to remove the related content. "However, Twitter has not abided by these rulings, and thereby disregarded the lawful requests of Turkish citizens," it stated.

"In order to prevent irremediable future grievances, access to Twitter has been blocked," said the Telecommunications Authority, emphasizing that it was acting in accordance with Law No. 5651 governing internet broadcasts and the fight against related crimes as well as other relevant legislation.

Regarding the block on access to Twitter that was put into force as of late Thursday, the Telecommunications Authority said the following:

"The Republic of Turkey is obliged to protect the rights of its citizens. Twitter and other social networking sites have to comply with Turkish legislation and abide by the rulings of Turkish courts. All media may broadcast freely so long as they comply with the law and observe the principles of personal rights and right to privacy.

“Twitter has been used as a means to carry out systematic character assassinations by circulating illegally acquired recordings, fake and fabricated records of wiretapping. The main ground for this measure is the continuous disregard of the court rulings and the continuing violation of personal rights. Similar measures have been taken on the same grounds in various countries to prevent illegal sharing of content violating personal rights and threatening national security through social media.

Twitter and other social networking sites must respect the principle that 'whatever is crime in real life is also a crime in cybernet'.”

Furthermore, officials from the Telecommunications Authority maintained that it is difficult to comprehend Twitters’ “indifference”, claiming that it is a biased and prejudiced stance.

They said believed that this attitude is damaging to the brand image of the company in question and creates an unfair and inaccurate impression of Turkey.

"The Turkish government is against the free circulation of the illegally acquired recordings over Twitter and other social networking sites which aim at hampering national security and reputation of the citizens, not the internet," they concluded.

Turkey's internet authority blocked access to Twitter late on Thursday, after a court issued an order demanding the website remove tweets containing certain links. Stating Twitter's management ignored calls from the Turkish government, the authorities said that it was not a ban but a temporary measure.

They added there were no plans to restrict access to any other social media or video-sharing websites. 

Twitter does not have an office in Turkey, despite Turkish authorities' requests for it to open a local branch.

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