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Twitter refused government requests to remove tweets

July 3, 2012 |  4:30 am

Twitter removed more than 5,000 tweets between January and June for flouting copyrights, but refused the few requests it received from governments to take down tweets.

Inspired by Google revealing who asked it to pull search results and why, Twitter aired its first public transparency report on Monday, sharing basic information about what it had shared with governments.

The company says it received more government requests in those six months than all of last year, a surge that parallels the growing demands on Google to crimp search results or remove videos. The microblogging service has become an increasingly global network for spreading ideas and information. It has also become a new frontier for clashes over speech, with tweets getting dissidents in trouble in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

The transparency report came out the same day that a New York court ordered Twitter to hand over almost three months of tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protester, a demand the company had resisted.

But Twitter agreed to provide governments at least some information about hundreds of other microbloggers, the report said. The vast majority of the requests came from the United States, which asked for information on more than 900 users. Twitter provided at least some information in 75% of those cases.

The company agreed to produce information for other governments less often, providing information to the Netherlands half the time, Greece and Australia a third of the time, and agreeing to a fifth of requests or fewer from Japan, Canada and Britain. It produced none of the requested information to more than a dozen other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Peru and Spain.

“If we receive information that gives us a good faith belief that there is an emergency involving the death or serious physical injury to a person, we may provide information necessary to prevent that harm, if we have it,” the company added in its guidelines.

However, Twitter rejected the few government requests it got this year to take down tweets or close accounts. France, Greece, Pakistan, Turkey and Britain asked Twitter to remove messages or cancel accounts from a total of 18 users in the last six months. None of them were removed, the report said.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

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