Twitter says governments are ramping up their demands for user data

Twitter says the number of government demands for data on its users has shot up in the past year.

In its latest transparency report out Thursday, the social media giant said it received 10 percent more requests between January and June than on its previous reporting period — the largest percentage increase in three years.

According to the newly released data, Twitter received 6,904 government requests for information on 16,882 accounts. Twitter turned over at least some data in 56 percent of cases.

The U.S. took the lead with 2,231 requests for information on 9,226 accounts — representing about one-third of all Twitter’s demands for the first-half of the year, with Japan and the U.K. falling behind in second and third place.

Twitter also said it received 39 requests for 24 accounts relating to its Periscope live-streaming service, and one request about its now-defunct Vine service.

In all, including governments requesting that data is removed, the number of global government demands went up by 80 percent, Twitter said, which had 336 million users as of its last earnings call. Most of the demands came from Russia and Turkey, where freedom of expression is limited.

The company said in its U.S.-specific report that it had notified users affected by five additional national security letters (NSLs) — issued by the FBI without any judicial oversight — after a court released Twitter from their gag orders.

Twitter said that it continues to litigate its case against the Justice Department in an effort to be allowed to reveal more about the secret demands it receives.

More from the report:

  • Between January and June, more than 487,300 accounts were suspended for violating the company’s child sexual exploitation rules. Some 97 percent of those accounts were proactively flagged, including through its use of Microsoft’s PhotoDNA software, which helps detect child abuse content.
  • More than 205,100 accounts were removed between January and June for posting terrorist content, with 91 percent proactively flagged by the company’s own tools.
  • About 75 percent of accounts believed to be spam were challenged by its systems and were ultimately suspended.
  • The number of spam reports declined from 868,349 in January to 504,259 in June.