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Exclusive-Twitter sees jump in govt demands to remove content of reporters, news outlets

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·3-min read
FILE PHOTO: People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in Warsaw
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By Sheila Dang and Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) -Twitter Inc saw a surge in government demands worldwide in 2020 to take down content posted by journalists and news outlets, according to data released by the social media platform.

In its transparency report published on Wednesday, Twitter said verified accounts of 199 journalists and news outlets on its platform faced 361 legal demands from governments to remove content in the second half of 2020, up 26% from the first half of the year.

The biannual report on Twitter's enforcement of policy rules and the information and removal requests it receives comes as social media companies including Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's YouTube face government scrutiny worldwide over the content allowed on their platforms.

Twitter ultimately removed five tweets from journalists and news publishers, the report said. India submitted most of the removal requests, followed by Turkey, Pakistan and Russia.

The social media platform did not previously track such data on requests pertaining to journalists or publishers.

India topped the list for information requests by governments in the second half of 2020, overtaking the United States for the first time, the report said.

Some countries have moved to ban or restrict access to social media platforms. On Monday, Cuba began curbing access to Facebook and messaging apps like Telegram amid widespread anti-government protests. Last month, Nigeria banned Twitter from the country and ordered television and radio stations not to use the platform to gather information.

The company said globally it received over 14,500 requests for information from July 1 to Dec. 31, and it produced some or all of the information in response to 30% of the requests.

Such requests can include governments or other entities asking for the identities of people tweeting under pseudonyms.

Twitter also received more than 38,500 legal demands to take down various content, down 9% from the first half of 2020, It complied with 29% of the demands.

Twitter has been embroiled in several conflicts with countries, notably India over its new content regulations for social media. Last week, the company said it had hired an interim chief compliance officer in India and would appoint other executives to comply with the rules.

In the updated transparency report, Twitter said the number of impressions, or views of a tweet, that violated Twitter's rules accounted for less than 0.1% of the total global views in the second half of 2020, the first time the platform has released such data.

The company said its technology is proactively identifying more than 65% of abusive content for human review, rather than relying on reports submitted by Twitter users.

Like other social media companies, Twitter has struggled to police hate speech, misinformation and other abuses on its service. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey was among the tech leaders who testified before Congress in March on misinformation.

Major social media companies were under fire this week over racist abuse on their platforms directed at Black players on the England soccer team.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas and Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Richard Chang)

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