By Colin Stretch, Facebook General Counsel
People around the world want to understand the nature and extent of government requests services like Facebook receive, and how companies respond to them.
Today we are releasing our second Government Requests Report. We have expanded on our first report to include information not only about government requests for account information, but also about government requests to restrict or remove content from our service on the grounds that it violates local law.
Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share, and to make the world more open and connected. Sometimes, the laws of a country interfere with that mission, by limiting what can be shared there. When we receive a government request seeking to enforce those laws, we review it with care, and, even where we conclude that it is legally sufficient, we only restrict access to content in the requesting country. We do not remove content from our service entirely unless we determine that it violates our community standards. We take a similar approach to government requests for account information. When we receive a request for information, we carefully assess whether we are legally required to comply. As we have long emphasized, we push back on requests that are overly broad, vague or do not comply with legal standards. When we are required to provide information, in most instances we share basic information only – such as name and IP address.
Since our last report, we have continued to push governments to authorize greater transparency about their actions, and to provide such transparency themselves. In December 2013, we and others in the industry launched Reform Government Surveillance, which set out principles advocating for more transparency and reform of surveillance laws and practices around the world. In addition, in the United States, we worked with others to push the U.S. government to allow us and other companies to provide insight into the volume and nature of national security-related requests for account information that we receive.
These are important steps, but much more remains to be done. Recent news accounts of alleged surveillance efforts by the United States government in other countries reinforce the importance of ensuring that all governments around the world seek access to user account information only through lawful process. We will continue to advocate for that principle, and for the additional transparency and accountability measures necessary to rebuild people’s trust in the Internet.