Twitter User Data Sought by US Gov't: Report

Dennis Faas's picture

Twitter has released new figures showing government requests for information about its users. It's a report similar to the one produced by Google, though with some notable differences.

For the past three years, Google has produced these kinds of statistics every six months. The idea is to show changes in government demands for specific user information.

Twitter openly acknowledges it has copied Google's idea. It says releasing the figures will force governments to be more accountable about the information they demand. (Source:

Twitter's newly-published data covers all government requests made since the start of 2012. That's more up-to-date than Google's report, which delays publishing the figures for six months.

Governments Hassle Google Far More Than Twitter

Altogether Twitter reports 849 requests from governments for information about its users, typically including a user's email address or their location. This compares with a total of 18,000 requests for similar information from Google. (Source:

According to Twitter, the US government was responsible for 80 per cent of its requests for information about users. By comparison, Google says the US government accounts for just one-third of its requests for such information.

Like Google, Twitter complied with a higher proportion of requests from the US (75 per cent) than any other country, most likely because it faces the most imminent consequences for refusing to do so.

The US is the only country where Twitter complied with the majority of requests. For 16 out of 23 countries that made at least one request for information, Twitter turned down every demand.

It's also notable that few, if any, of the national regimes making requests of Twitter are regarded as oppressive, particularly when it comes to the Internet.

This may be simply because such countries do a better job of blocking communication on Twitter in the first place than they can do across all web sites listed on Google.

Most Copyright Claims Go Ignored

Twitter also reports a total of 3,378 demands from copyright holders to take down their material. The social network took action in just 38 per cent of these cases. Google, by contrast, receives millions of these requests each month.

According to Twitter, it always tells its users that a government has asked for information about them, unless that government has specifically banned it from doing so.

Twitter says it also passes along copies of all demands to take down copyrighted material.

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