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Facebook receives max requests from India to block content

MUMBAI: Social networking site Facebook has once again received the maximum number of requests for content restriction from the Indian government, in the second half of 2014.

India topped the list of content restriction requests. There were over 5,800 requests from India which were recorded in Facebook’s Government Requests Report released recently. The number rose to 5,832 from 4,960 in the first half.

In a statement, Facebook global policy management head Monika Bickert and deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby said, “Overall, we continue to see an increase in government requests for data and content restrictions. The amount of content restricted for violating local law increased by 11 per cent over the previous half, to 9,707 pieces of content restricted, up from 8,774.”

Facebook blocked 5,832 pieces of content, including anti-religious matter and hate speeches, during July–December 2014 on the orders of the Indian government, the highest by any country on the social networking giant’s platform, the report mentions.

India made 5,473 requests for account data in the six months ending December 2014, second to the US, which made 14,274 requests in the same period. However, only about 45 per cent of the requests made by India led to Facebook producing some data, according to the report.

“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, including anti-religious content and hate speech that could cause unrest and disharmony,” Facebook said.

The report includes information on government requests Facebook received for content removal and account data and national security requests under the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters.

India is followed by Turkey at 3,624 pieces of restricted content, Germany at 60, Russia (55), and Pakistan (54), the report stated.

Facebook saw a rise in content restriction requests from countries like Turkey and Russia, while requests from countries like Pakistan came down. Pakistan made 100 requests for user account data and 54 requests for content restrictions in the second half of 2014.

“The number of government requests for account data remained relatively flat, with a slight increase to 35,051 from 34,946. There was an increase in data requests from certain governments such as India, and decline in requests from countries such as the United States and Germany,” they added.

The vast majority of government these requests relate to criminal activities like robbery or kidnapping. In many of these cases, government requests seek basic subscriber information such as name and length of service. Other requests have asked for IP address logs or actual account content, it added.

“Each and every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency. We require officials to provide a detailed description of the legal and factual basis for their request, and we push back when we find legal deficiencies or overly broad or vague demands for information. Even where we determine that local law would compel disclosure, we frequently share only basic subscriber information,” Facebook said.

The requests covered 7,281 user accounts and Facebook provided ‘some data’ on 44.69 per cent of the requests.