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India triples content banning on Facebook as governments increase user data requests

Facebook's transparency report for the first six months of the year has seen India restrict more than 15,000 pieces of content, as globally, governments continue to increase requests for user data.

India is far and away the country that bans the most content on Facebook, the social network's transparency report for the six months between January and July 2015 has revealed.

In that time, India had the viewing of 15,155 pieces of content restricted to its residents, according to Facebook, more than three times the 4,496 pieces of content banned in Turkey, the next most restrictive nation, with France being the third-highest with 285 content restrictions.

"We restricted access in India to content reported primarily by law enforcement agencies and the India Computer Emergency Response Team within the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology because it was anti-religious and hate speech that could cause unrest and disharmony within India," Facebook said in its report.

For the same six-month period last year, India again made the highest number of content restrictions with 4,960 blocks on content.

India was also the country with the second-highest number of requests for user data, with 5,115 requests made between January and July that referenced 6,268 user accounts. Facebook said it handed over data to Indian authorities in 45 percent of cases.

The United States continued to be the nation with the most requests for user data, making 17,577 requests that referenced 26,579 user accounts. Data was produced for US authorities 80 percent of the time.

Compared with this time last year, the US was up on the 15,433 requests made in the first six months of 2014, with its success rate in obtaining data remaining steady.

Following the US and India was the United Kingdom with 3,384 requests and a 78 percent success rate, France obtained data 43 percent of the time with its 2,520 requests, and Germany only had a 36 percent strike rate from 2,344 requests.

"Overall, we continue to see an increase in content restrictions and government requests for data globally," said Facebook deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby. "The amount of content restricted for violating local law increased by 112 percent over the second half of 2014, to 20,568 pieces of content, up from 9,707.

"Government requests for account data increased across all countries by 18 percent over the same period, from 35,051 requests to 41,214."

Sonderby said Facebook does not provide governments with "back doors" or direct access to its users' data.

China was included in the transparency report for the first time, with the country blocking five pieces of content, and making no requests for user data.

Since this time last year, elsewhere in Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Pakistan, and Taiwan each made more than 100 requests for user data. Taiwan was the only member of the quintet to see a drop in requests for user data.

Earlier today, Facebook announced the release of its Notify app on iOS, an app that the social network said gives users timely notifications on their lock screens from trusted sources.