Australian government requests for Facebook data has increased by 50% over the first half of 2020, while Australia’s defamation laws emerged as the major reason for content being taken down from the company’s platforms.
Facebook has published its latest transparency report covering the first half of 2020. The report offers both a global and a country-based view of how the tech company responds to legal requests for data and content takedowns by different regimes going back to 2013.
As a general trend, government requests for user data have been going up around the world — up 23% in the past six months. And Australia is no exception.
In the first half of this year, Australian governments made 1,541 total requests for data. This comprised of 1,465 requests through normal legal processes and 75 emergency requests (which is when law enforcement makes an urgent request outside of the normal processes), for a total of 1,877 users and accounts. In these situations, Facebook reported producing data 80% of the time.
This compares to 943 total requests in the second half of 2019 — 891 through normal legal processes and 52 emergency requests — with the same rate of data production (80%).
Similarly, in situations where governments in Australia sought information but hadn’t gone through the process, Facebook received 444 total requests to preserve the data belonging to 699 users and accounts to hand over to governments pending a legal order. This was up from 367 requests for 544 users and accounts in the second half of 2019.
Facebook also reported how often it restricts content, based on whether it’s illegal in the country where it’s being displayed.
And in the first half of 2020, the display of 51 pieces of content was restricted by Facebook, compared with 14 the year before. The biggest reason? By far, defamation.
A total of 46 pieces of content were removed because of Australia’s strict defamation laws.
What the jump in data requests demonstrates is that governments such as Australia’s are feeling more comfortable telling Facebook to do as they say.