40% drop in Twitter accounts reported by Pakistan

KARACHI: It may have been a sign of stricter government controls: the number of accounts reported to Twitter by the Government of Pakistan has dropped by 40% year on year in the first six months of 2019, according to the social networking site’s 15th biannual report.

The number of profiles reported between January and June this year stands at 1,798 as against 3,004 in the same period last year, says the Twitter’s transparency report released on Thursday. The government sent 273 content removal requests, the highest so far, in the mentioned period.

Meanwhile, as many as 23 account information requests were made to Twitter, and 70 profiles specified in the first half of this year.

Twitter did not comply with any of the requests by the authorities, eight of which were sent through court orders. Official requests include legal requests from government agencies, police or other departments. However, some content was removed from 234 accounts for violating Twitter’s terms of service.

In comparison, there were 243 removal requests in the corresponding period last year. Similarly, 22 information requests were made in the first half of 2018 with 54 accounts specified.

Arslan Khalid, PM’s focal person on digital media, said the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority reports content that falls under hate speech, impersonation or blasphemy.

The low compliance rate, he added, was because Twitter was not bound to submit to any laws or requests by Pakistan.

For this purpose, he said, legislation had been proposed with recommendations which needed to be vetted by three to four ministries before any progress.

The report came a day after Twitter said it would ban political advertising on its platform next month, amid pressure to stop carrying ads that spread false information that could steer elections.

One in two abusive tweets removed

Twitter said its technology tools removed one in two tweets containing abusive content posted in the first half of this year.

In its report, the micro-blogging site said it was investing in proactive technology to reduce the burden on people reporting abusive content to the company.

“More than 50 percent of tweets we remove for abuse are now proactively surfaced using technology, rather than relying on reports to Twitter,” the company said. That compared with 20% a year ago.

The report noted a 105% increase in accounts locked or suspended for violating its rules during the six-month period.

There was a 48% rise in accounts reported for potential violation of Twitter’s hateful conduct policies while 115,861 accounts were suspended because of their terrorist content, down 30% from the previous year.

The company also received 67% more legal requests to remove content from 49 countries, 80% of which came from Japan, Russia and Turkey.

The Express Tribune