Facebook reinforces commitment to transparency

Facebook has released its Transparency Report, previously called the Government Requests Report, for the first half of 2017. For the first time, it is expanding the report beyond government requests to provide data regarding reports from rights holders related to intellectual property (IP) — covering copyright, trademark, and counterfeit. The report also includes the same categories of information it has disclosed in the past, with updates on government requests for account data, content restrictions, and Internet disruptions.

“We believe that sharing information about IP reports we receive from rights holders is an important step toward being more open and clear about how we protect the people and businesses that use our services,” commented Chris Sonderby, Deputy General Counsel. “Our Transparency Report describes these policies and procedures in more detail, along with the steps we’ve taken to safeguard the people who use Facebook and keep them informed about IP. It also includes data covering the volume and nature of copyright, trademark, and counterfeit reports we’ve received and the amount of content affected by those reports. For example, in the first half of 2017, we received 224,464 copyright reports about content on Facebook, 41,854 trademark reports, and 14,279 counterfeit reports,” he advised.

“In addition to our new section on intellectual property, we are also providing our usual twice-a-year update on government requests for account data, content restrictions based on local law, and information about Internet disruptions in the first half of this year.”

“Requests for account data increased by 21 per cent globally compared to the second half of 2016, from 64,279 to 78,890. Fifty-seven percent of the data requests we received from law enforcement in the U.S. contained a non-disclosure order that prohibited us from notifying the user, up from 50 per cent in our last report. Additionally, as a result of transparency reforms introduced in 2016 by the USA Freedom Act, the US government notified us that it was lifting the non-disclosure order on five National Security Letters (NSLs) we previously received between 2012 and 2015,” he added.

“We continue to carefully scrutinise each request we receive for account data — whether from an authority in the US, Europe, or elsewhere — to make sure it is legally sufficient. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary. We’ll also keep working with partners in industry and civil society to encourage governments around the world to reform surveillance in a way that protects their citizens’ safety and security while respecting their rights and freedoms,” he confirmed.

Overall, the number of content restrictions for violating local law increased by 304 per cent globally, compared to the second half of 2016, from 6,944 to 28,036. This increase was primarily driven by a request from Mexican law enforcement to remove instances of a video depicting a school shooting in Monterrey in January. We restricted access in Mexico to 20,506 instances of the video in the first half of 2017.”

“Meanwhile, there were 52 disruptions of Facebook services in nine countries in the first half of 2017, compared to 43 disruptions in 20 countries in the second half of 2016. We continue to be deeply concerned by Internet disruptions, which can create barriers for businesses and prevent people from sharing and communicating with their family and friends.”

“Publishing this report reinforces our important commitment to transparency as we build community and bring the world closer together,” he concluded.


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