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India continues to be among top requester for Facebook’s user data

Of the 35,360 requests for 57,294 users or accounts, Facebook said some data was produced in 50% of the cases

Facebook received 35,560 requests from the Government of India for user data during the first half (January-June) of 2020 — the second highest globally, according to the latest Transparency Report published by the United States-headquartered firm.

This is an increase of over 33% compared to 26,698 queries in the second half (July-December) of 2019, and 57% higher than 22,684 requests during January-June 2019.

Of the 35,360 requests for 57,294 users or accounts, Facebook said some data was produced in 50% of the cases.

“We comply with government requests for user information only where we have a good-faith belief that the law requires us to do so. In addition, we assess whether a request is consistent with internationally recognized standards on human rights, including due process, privacy, free expression and the rule of law,” Chris Sonderby, VP & Deputy General Counsel at Facebook said in a blog post. The company scrutinised every government request received to make sure it was legally valid, no matter which government made the request.

Facebook did not provide governments with direct access or “back doors” to people’s information, he stated.

In the first six months of 2020, government requests for user data globally increased 23% from 1,40,875 to 1,73,592. Of the total volume, the U.S. continued to submit the largest number of requests (61,528), followed by India, Germany (11,211), France (11,086), the U.K. (9,185), Brazil (7,517), Turkey (6,171) and Poland (4,572).

Mr. Sonderby said that when content was reported as violating local law, but did not go against Facebook’s Community Standards, the platform may limit access to that content in the country where it was allegedly illegal. “During this reporting period, the volume of content restrictions based on local law decreased globally by 11% from 17,807 to 15,826. Of the total, Russia, Pakistan and Mexico accounted for almost half of global content restrictions,” he noted.

Hate speech

The social network giant also released its report for ‘community standards enforcement’, November 2020. It said it had included in the report, the prevalence of hate speech on its platform globally, for the first time.

The move comes amid Facebook facing severe criticism worldwide for use of its platform for spreading hate speech.

“In Q3 2020, hate speech prevalence was 0.10% – 0.11% or 10 to 11 views of hate speech for every 10,000 views of content,” Guy Rosen, VP of Integrity at Facebook, said in a separate post.

As per available data, in Q3, 2020 (July-September) 2020, the company took action on 22.1 million pieces of content on Facebook for hate speech, of which 94.7% was found and flagged by it before users reported the content. Additionally, it acted on 6.5 million pieces of hate speech content on Instagram during the quarter.

Mr. Rosen said the company acted on 19.2 million pieces of violent and graphic content on Facebook, 4.1 million pieces of violent and graphic content, 12.4 million pieces of child nudity and sexual exploitation content on Facebook, 1 million pieces of child nudity and sexual exploitation content on Instagram, 3.5 million pieces of bullying and harassment content on Facebook and 2.6 million pieces of bullying and harassment content. Further, it also acted on 1.3 million pieces of suicide and self-injury on Instagram.

Internet disruptions

As per the data shared by Facebook, in the first half of 2020, it witnessed about 53 instances of Internet disruptions affecting its services in 10 countries. India continued to top the list, accounting for 79% or 42 such disruptions. The total duration of disruptions in India was 38 weeks, 3 days and 19 hours.

Other countries part of the list were Burundi, Ethiopia, Guinea, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan, Togo, Turkey and Vietnam.

The 42 instances detailed for India where Facebook said it saw service disruption, include for 47 weeks, 1 day, and 20 hours in Jammu and Kashmir, August 5, 2019, onwards; 4 days and nine hours in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal; 13 hours in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh; 6 days and 15 hours in Murshidabad, Malda, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Birbhum, Jalpaiguri, and Cooch Behar Districts, West Bengal; 5 days and 8 hours in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh; and 5 days and 16 hours in East Jaintia Hills, West Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi, West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills Districts, Meghalaya.

“Because we believe that disrupting Internet connectivity can undermine economic activity and free expression, we also report the number of deliberate Internet disruptions caused by governments around the world that impact the availability of our products. In the first half of 2020, we identified 52 disruptions of Facebook services in nine countries, compared to 45 disruptions in six countries in the second half of 2019,” Mr. Sonderby said.

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