By Chris Sonderby, VP & Deputy General Counsel
Today, we are releasing our latest Transparency Report for the second half of 2018.
We take our commitment to transparency at Facebook seriously. Since 2013, we have released information on the nature and extent of the government requests we receive for user data. Each half, we look to improve and expand our scope, which now includes information about the number of content restrictions based on local law, reports on locations where access to Facebook products and services were disrupted, and reports of counterfeit, copyright and trademark infringement.
Also included in this release is our third Community Standards Enforcement Report, which shows how much violating content we have detected on our service, so people can judge for themselves how well we’re doing at enforcing our Community Standards. Guy Rosen, our VP of Integrity, explains more about these numbers in this post.
Government Requests for User Data
In the second half of 2018, government requests for user data increased globally by 7% from 103,815 to 110,634. This increase reflects normal growth for the second half as compared to previous reporting periods. Of the total volume, the United States continues to submit the highest number of requests, followed by India, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
In the United States, we received 3% fewer requests than last reporting period, of which 58% included a non-disclosure order prohibiting Facebook from notifying the user. In accordance with transparency updates introduced in the 2016 USA Freedom Act, the US government lifted the non-disclosure orders on three National Security Letters (NSLs) we received between 2014 and 2015. These requests, along with the US government’s authorization letters, are available below.
This half, we also conducted an internal review of our US national security reporting metrics as part of an effort to strengthen our protocols and ensure standardization of accounting methods across our family of apps. During this review, we discovered an error in our accounting methods for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) content requests. This error resulted in a significant undercounting of the number of accounts specified in those requests, as well as overcounting of the number of requests in one half, dating back to 2015. Our practice of sharing our national security figures with the government before the publication of each of our prior reports did not surface these errors. In this report, we are updating our numbers to reflect these corrections, though our review is ongoing. We will provide an update following the completion of that work. We are required by law to report this data in ranges of 500 and we delay the release of data on these requests to comply with the law. You can see the previous and revised numbers in an attachment below.
As we’ve shared in previous reports, we carefully scrutinize every government request we receive to protect the information of the people who use our services. Each request must be legally sufficient and if a request appears to be defective or overly broad, we push back and will fight in court, if necessary. This is true no matter which government makes the request. We’ll also keep working with partners in industry and civil society to encourage governments around the world to reform surveillance in a way that protects their citizens’ safety and security while respecting their rights and freedoms.
During the second half of 2018, the volume of content restrictions based on local law increased globally by 135% from 15,337 to 35,972. This increase was primarily driven by 16,600 items we restricted in India based on a Delhi High Court order regarding claims made about PepsiCo products. For this release, we’ve added a new breakout of content restrictions by product — Facebook and Instagram — and their content types — like Pages, profiles and comments — for each platform.
This report also monitors and reports on identified, temporary internet disruptions that impact the availability of Facebook products. In the second half of 2018, we identified 53 disruptions of Facebook services in nine countries, compared to 48 disruptions in eight countries in the first half of 2018. This half, India accounted for 85% of total new global disruptions.
Finally, we continue to report on the volume and nature of copyright, trademark and counterfeit reports we receive each half — as well as the amount of content affected by those reports. During this period, on Facebook and Instagram, we took down 2,595,410 pieces of content based on 511,706 copyright reports; 215,877 pieces of content based on 81,243 trademark reports; and 781,875 pieces of content based on 62,829 counterfeit reports.
Publishing this report represents our continued commitment to transparency. We’re always working to improve our reporting in these areas and we look forward to making this report available in more than 15 different languages in the coming months.
You can see the full report for more information.