Turkey was the third country, after Japan and Russia, that most frequently requested the removal of content from Twitter in the first half of 2021, according to the company’s Transparency Report for the first six months of the year.
As much as 95 percent of the total global volume of legal demands originated from only five countries — Japan, Russia, Turkey, India and South Korea — the report said, adding that Turkey accounted for 13 percent of global legal demands, showing a 30 percent increase in requests compared to the previous reporting period.
Legal demands from Turkey, Twitter’s third-largest requester in this reporting period, totaled 13 percent of all global legal demands despite an 8 percent decrease in accounts specified in Turkish legal demands, according to the report.
A total of 172 accounts of verified journalists and news outlets from around the world were subject to 231 legal demands, the report also said, including 89 requests from India, 59 from Turkey, 40 from Russia and 18 from Pakistan.
The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has for years been tightening its grip over social media. In July 2020 parliament approved sweeping changes to social media regulations, introducing fines, restricted bandwidth and possible bans for social media firms that break the law and giving the government sweeping new powers to regulate content.
Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) is working on a draft bill focusing on punishing the spread of “false information” content on social media with a jail sentence of up to five years.
Turkey was ranked “not free” by Freedom House in its Freedom in the World 2021 index. The organization said the government continued to expand its attempts to control online sources of news and information. Turkey’s score of 35 out of 100 on social media freedom was lower than that of Rwanda, Belarus and Azerbaijan.
Twitter saw the largest increase in total accounts reported and legal demands received during this reporting period since releasing its first transparency report in 2012, with 43,387 legal demands to remove content specifying 196,878 accounts, the report further said.
Overall, Twitter withheld or otherwise removed some or all of the reported content in response to 54 percent of global legal demands, which amounted to an 88 percent increase in the compliance rate compared to the previous reporting period.
“We’re facing unprecedented challenges as governments around the world increasingly attempt to intervene and remove content,” Twitter’s vice president of global public policy and philanthropy Sinéad McSweeney said in a statement. “This threat to privacy and freedom of expression is a deeply worrying trend that requires our full attention.”