Growing government inquiries are having "serious chilling" effects on free expression and tangible privacy implications, says Twitter's manager of legal policy Jeremy Kessel in a Jan. 28 blog post. Over the past year, Twitter received 1,858 government requests for user information worldwide and 48 government requests to withhold content, according to the company's new transparency report.
The company reports an increase of 160 government requests in the second half of 2012 (1,009) compared to first half (849). In addition, Twitter's requests from government for content removal increased seven-fold in from July through December 2012 versus January through June, jumping to 42 from 6 requests.
"All signs suggest that these government inquiries will continue to climb into the foreseeable future," states the biannual report.
In 2012, Twitter received user information requests from 30 different governments, with 81 percent originating from within the United States during the second half of 2012.
U.S. law enforcement requests arrived in the form of subponeans 60 percent of the time, with warrants constituting 19 percent and court orders 11 percent, Twitter says. The remaining 10 percent were exigent emergency disclosure and other requests. From July 1 through December 31, 2012, the company complied with 69 percent of U.S. government information requests, meaning it disclosed some or all of the sought information.
Twitter says government requests they receive for user account information typically involve criminal investigations or cases. The company has a long-standing policy of proactively notifying users of requests for their account information, unless they are prohibited by law from doing so.
An earlier blog post announcing the release of its first transparency report in July 2012 said Twitter was "inspired by the great work done" by Google's reporting about requests it received from governments and courts around the world to hand over user data.