Facebook revealed that it has allowed the Indian government to censor the content its inhabitants are allowed to see on the social network 4,765 times between July and December 2013. Why? Indian legislation outlaws criticizing a religion or the state, so when government officials call blasphemy, Facebook investigates and eradicates.
"Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share, and to make the world more open and connected," Colin Stretch, Facebook's general counsel, said in a transparency report that was released Friday. "Sometimes, the laws of a country interfere with that mission, by limiting what can be shared there." If a country's complaint is proven valid given local laws—Facebook's next report may reveal how many times requests are denied—then Facebook removes the content for users only in that region.
This is the first time the social network has disclosed how often it allows governments to remove or restrict content for legal reasons. While India leads the pack, it was followed by Turkey, which restricted 2,014 pieces of content primarily because it defamed or criticized Ataturk or the Turkish state, which is illegal. Germany was allowed to censor 84 pieces of content because local laws prohibit Holocaust denial. That law also exists in France (80 restrictions) and Austria (78 restrictions).
A map chronicling how much was banned and why can be seen here. Facebook didn't include information it would have removed anyway because it violated its community standards.
This isn't the first time Facebook has offered up information on allowances it grants to governments. The company's first Global Government Requests Report was released in August and disclosed how often it grants governments access to user data. That information was also included in the current July-Dec. report.
The United States was the leader in user information requests. It was granted 81% of its 12,598 requests for account details due to search warrants, subpoenas, emergency disclosures, and other official reasons. It was followed by the UK (granted 71% of its 1,906 requests), and India (granted 54% of its 3,598 requests).
This level of disclosure isn't unheard of in the tech world. Twitter has been releasing this information for years. Between July 1 and December 31, Twitter withheld 191 tweets.