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Twitter scolds U.S. government for censoring its transparency reports

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Twitter wants to give more answers, but its transparency report leaves plenty of room for questions. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Twitter is not happy with the U.S. government. Today, the micro-blogging platform released new transparency reports that show how often Twitter receives requests from governments to share information, often for criminal investigations. Forty-six countries have now asked Twitter to share information, and the company wants to be clear about when it does and doesn’t comply, and how often it is asked. U.S. policy, however, does not allow Twitter to share as much as it would like. To protest, Twitter accompanied this year’s transparency report with a blog post titled “Fighting for more #transparency,” detailing the company’s efforts to release a more in-depth information about the nature of government data requests. 

Last week, the Justice Department came to an agreement with communications providers about how much they can share regarding national security requests.

“In light of ongoing revelations about government surveillance, we’ve taken a public stand in support of increased transparency and Global Government Surveillance Reform,” the post reads. 

In other words, Twitter thinks the government needs to allow more transparency, though they noted this agreement is a step in the right direction. 

“For the disclosure of national security requests to be meaningful to our users, it must be within a range that provides sufficient precision to be meaningful,” Twitter’s post reads. “Allowing Twitter, or any other similarly situated company, to only disclose national security requests within an overly broad range seriously undermines the objective of transparency. In addition, we also want the freedom to disclose that we do not receive certain types of requests, if, in fact, we have not received any.” 

Twitter wrote that the government’s current restrictions violate the First Amendment, and emphasized that the number of requests for transparency has increased 66 percent over the past two years – indicating that organizations around the globe want to know what sort of data Twitter is sharing with the government. 

You can read Twitter’s full transparency report, but here’s one of the graphs they published to show the increase in requests:

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Kate Knibbs
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Kate Knibbs is a writer from Chicago. She is very happy that her borderline-unhealthy Internet habits are rewarded with a…
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