ENTERTAINMENT EXECUTIVES DESPERATE to hike up their earnings bombarded Twitter with thousands of takedown requests last year in attempts to protect copyrighted content.
Twitter published its latest Transparency Report on Thursday, and the numbers make painful reading for the social website's legal compliance department. During 2013, Twitter was slammed with 12,433 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown requests, or 35 every day. This has roughly doubled since 2012, when Twitter received 6,646 such requests.
The busiest period for takedowns was the last six months of 2013, with 6,680 notices of alleged copyright infringement received. In 62 percent of cases, Twitter removed material such as photos, background images and videos from a total of 12,243 accounts, including deleting 26,506 tweets and removing 5,847 pieces of content.
Remove Your Media, which defines itself as a group of online videographers and marketers dedicated to helping other producers combat online media 'piracy', spent the most time bothering Twitter with requests. From July to December last year, it filled out 693 takedown notices, leading to the removal of 12,350 images or videos.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) also had time to spare, coming second in the list with 243 notices served, leading to the removal of 5,155 items.
Governments spend a lot less time asking Twitter to remove information posted on the website. In the past two years, Twitter received only 473 requests to take down data such as defamatory statements or prohibited material, either from a court order, the police or a government agency. However, this activity has ramped up recently, with 365 of these requests coming in the last six months of 2013.
We put that down to the fact government officials were too busy asking Twitter to give them access to users' accounts to bother making takedown requests. Twitter was hit with more than 2,500 government requests for user data last year, an increase of 38 percent compared to 2012.
Twitter revealed that it was asked 1,410 times during the last six months of 2013 to share account information with governments, up from 849 requests from January to June 2012 when it first published this data.
Unsurprisingly, the US government was by far the greediest for information, racking up 833 requests from July to December 2013 and receiving information in 69 percent of cases. Japan, France and the UK were next, making 213, 57 and 56 requests, respectively.
The vast majority of the 46 countries that have asked for some kind of data have made fewer than 10 requests, including China. For such an authoritarian country, it might seem surprising that the Chinese government is not bombarding Twitter with more demands for user data - but this is more likely due to the fact that the social media tool is blocked in China than the authorities deciding to leave Twitter users to their own devices.
Twitter also took the opportunity to again call on the US government to allow technology firms more transparency over information disclosures.
"We think it is essential for companies to be able to disclose numbers of national security requests of all kinds - including national security letters and different types of FISA court orders - separately from reporting on all other requests," Twitter's global legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel noted.
"Unfortunately, we are currently prohibited from providing this level of transparency. We think the government's restriction on our speech not only unfairly impacts our users' privacy, but also violates our First Amendment right to free expression and open discussion of government affairs."
Kessel added that while the firm has already asked the US Department of Justice to allow greater transparency, it is also considering legal options "to defend our First Amendment rights". µ
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