Twitter at the NYSE

Anthony Quintano for Re/code


Twitter may be having a few issues attracting new users, but it’s become an increasingly popular service with government lawyers, who have been bombarding the social network with more requests for information on users.

In it’s fifth transparency report, released Thursday morning, Twitter said that it had received 2,058 requests for information on users in the first half of 2014, compared to 1,157 in the same time period last year. About 60 percent of those information requests came from the U.S. government, Twitter said.

Twitter has been releasing the reports biannually since 2012 and the data has shown a steady increase in government requests (most from the U.S.) for information about users.

In a related blog post, Twitter’s legal department said it hasn’t made much headway in its effort to provide more information about data requests it receives from the U.S. intelligence community. Other Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, reached a deal with the Justice Department to release some details about national security data requests, but only in frustratingly large number ranges.

Twitter wants to release more granular data but Obama administration lawyers aren’t enthusiastic about the idea. In early April, Twitter said it sent its draft midyear transparency report which showed “relevant information about national security requests” to Justice Department lawyers with a request for information about what information was classified or couldn’t be published.

“At this point, over 90 days have passed, and we still have not received a reply,” Twitter said Thursday. The company repeated it was considering its legal options against the U.S. government to release more information.

The most recent report also details some of the battles it has faced around the globe with governments that have objected to information posted by users on the service, most notably Turkey, which blocked the service for much of the spring as the country prepared for national elections.

Government requests for tweets to be removed from the service also increased during the first half of the year, compared to 2013. The country with the largest number of removal requests was Turkey with 186 requests, Twitter said.


Please bear with me. I'm having trouble understanding Re/code's claim that the U.S. government made about 60% of 2,058 requests for information. Amy Schatz helpfully links to Twitter's report, which specifies 1,257 such requests from the United States pertaining to 1,918 accounts. However, Twitter explains, "Information requests include both federal and state legal process."

Accordingly, Twitter provides the following breakdown: 1,189 requests from the 50 states, 9 from Puerto Rico, and one from Guam. That leaves 58 from, as Twitter lists it, "Washington, D.C.," which presumably means the federal government rather than the District's mayor. So if I'm reading this correctly, the U.S. government did not make 60% of 2,058 requests. The feds made less than 3% of that total.

What have I missed here? For the past 14 months, Edward Snowden and his journalistic purveyors have assured us the United States is a police state. Yet 58 federal requests out of more than 200 million active Twitter users worldwide makes it seem like Big Brother is suffering a severe case of erectile dysfunction.


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