Facebook updates transparency report with content removal requests

Facebook's seasonal transparency report is expanding beyond just offering a glimpse at the number of government requests for account information.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been fairly vocal lately in pushing for greater accountability on the part of government agencies, touting to users and the media alike that he's even making calls to the White House to discuss just that.

Now the social network's second global government request report, published bi-annually, is aiming to offer more accountability itself.

The latest edition expands beyond just offering a glimpse at the number of government requests for account information. Now the report will also include data about requests asking Facebook to restrict or remove content altogether on the basis that it violates local laws.

Last summer, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company started publishing transparency reports about data requests made by government and law enforcement agencies in the wake of the National Security Agency leak in June 2013.

To recall, Facebook was revealed to be one of the nine tech giants used as a pipeline for the NSA's secret data mining program, PRISM, which sparked a global controversy.

All of the tech companies, Facebook included, spoke out publicly against the federal agency's surveillance practices.

Facebook's general counsel Colin Stretch recapped in a blog post on Friday about some of the other initiatives the company is pushing in regards to transparency:

In December 2013, we and others in the industry launched Reform Government Surveillance, which set out principles advocating for more transparency and reform of surveillance laws and practices around the world. In addition, in the United States, we worked with others to push the U.S. government to allow us and other companies to provide insight into the volume and nature of national security-related requests for account information that we receive.

Compared to some other transparency reports, Facebook's version does offer some more concrete, specific figures.

Looking at the United States between July and December 2013, for example, Facebook said it received a total of 12,598 requests for information about 18,715 users. Facebook admitted it offered up data in regards to 81.02 percent of those requests.

But Facebook can't give everything away.

Citing the legal mandate to wait six months to disclose Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests (and the requirement to limit reporting data in clusters of 1,000), Facebook only said it received between zero and 999 National Security Letter requests during the same six month time frame.

Facebook users can view the entire report for themselves online now.

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