Social media giant Twitter has reported a significant jump in requests from governments to take down content posted by verified journalists and news outlets during 2020.
Governments made a total of 361 requests during 2020 when compared to 199 the previous year, an increase of 26%. The requests related to content posted by 199 journalists and media platforms, all of which were verified by the platform as being legitimate.
In addition to this, Twitter received more than 14,500 requests for information between July and December 2020. These typically included requests to identify the individuals behind social media accounts. Twitter reported it complied with just 30% of the requests.
The company said that India made the highest number of requests, followed by the United States.
Social media platforms are currently embroiled in controversy after banning and restricting political posts, allowing hate speech, and even banning politicians. Furthermore, some countries have recently taken action to block access to certain sites. For example, in Nigeria, Twitter is now banned and the media has been told it’s not allowed to gather information from the site.
In Cuba, amid ongoing anti-communism demonstrations, access to Telegram and Facebook has been restricted. Twitter is currently banned in China, Iran, North Korea, and Turkmenistan.
But the issue of requests for removal of information or identifying information about journalists from governments comes at a time when media freedom is declining globally. The pandemic saw a huge increase in media freedom violations and issues in accessing information.
Governments controlled the flow of information, stopping press conferences, failing to respond to information requests, and hampering the work of the media in holding them to account.