According to Facebook’s report, India had over 4,960 requests for “Content Restriction”. Facebook adds that they restricted content on the requests of law enforcement officials and India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) as most of the content was related to criticism of religion or the state which is prohibited under the local laws.
The Indian government had 4,559 User Data requests and close to 5959 accounts were referenced. Facebook complied with 50.87 percent of the requests.
The social media network which released it’s Government Request report yesterday, also said that overall demands for user information have increased by 24 percent from January to June, 2014. In the first six months of 2014, governments around the world made 34,946 requests for data.
During the same time, the amount of content restricted because of local laws increased about 19 percent. “We’re aggressively pursuing an appeal to a higher court to invalidate these sweeping warrants and to force the government to return the data it has seized,” the company said in a blog post on Tuesday.
In terms of requests for user data, the US government leads with 15,433 requests and 23,667 users accounts referenced. Facebook complied with 80.15 percent of requests by the US. The US has zero requests for content restrictions.
United Kingdom had 2,110 requests to Facebook and over 2,619 user accounts were referenced. Facebook complied with 71.68 percent of the requests and UK also had 9 requests on content restrictions.
Where content restrictions are concerned, nobody comes close to India. Second on the list is Turkey which had over 1893 pieces of content restricted or blocked. Third on the list of content restrictions is India’s neighbour Pakistan with restrictions on 1773 content pieces.
This is not the first year that India has led the charts on content restriction requests to Facebook. Last year in July and December India saw restrictions being placed on 4,765 pieces of content on Facebook. Once again this was due to local laws which don’t allow for criticism of a religion or the state.
Given that India has close to 100 million Facebook users, (the largest base outside of the US), it’s not surprising that the number of requests would be significantly higher than in other countries. What is perhaps worrying however, is India’s lead in ‘content restrictions’. However the Facebook report doesn’t give out any specifics on why content could be blocked other than mentioning “criticism of a religion or the state.” The lack of specifics from Facebook don’t really give a sense of the kind of censorship that is prevalent.
Given how vague the laws in India are when it comes ‘to hurting religious sentiments,’ or even in describing ‘criticism of the state,’ this kind of restriction on social media is not surprising. It also confirms that India’s law agencies are aggressively monitoring for content that is deemed as being against the laws of the state.
The Facebook report only gives us a number on content restrictions. The full picture on how rampant the restriction is, why it takes place at times, is still awaited. As we’ve seen in the case of the Pune techie murder, Facebook is actively used to spread religious hatred in India but very often by the time any corrective action is taken it is too late.