Our Continued Commitment to Transparency

Update on December 10, 2018: Today we published a white paper that explains in more detail how we protect IP at Facebook.  

Originally posted November 15, 2018:

By Chris Sonderby, VP & Deputy General Counsel

Maintaining transparency around the nature and extent of the government requests we receive for user data, and how we make decisions about what content stays up or what comes down on Facebook, is really important to us. Each half we issue a Transparency Report to share what we’ve seen in these areas and believe that this kind of transparency helps hold governments and Facebook accountable.

For this release, we’re sharing an update on all aspects of our Transparency Report. This includes information about government requests for user data we’ve received; reports on where access to Facebook products and services was disrupted; the number of content restrictions based on local law; and reports of counterfeit, copyright, and trademark infringement. These areas cover the first half of this year. We are also releasing our second Community Standards Enforcement Report, which shows how much violating content we have detected on our service, so that people can judge for themselves how well we are doing enforcing our Community Standards. Guy Rosen, our VP of Product Management, explains more about these numbers in this post.

Government requests for account data increased globally by around 26% compared to the second half of 2017, increasing from 82,341 to 103,815 requests. In the US, government requests increased by about 30%, of which 56% included a non-disclosure order prohibiting Facebook from notifying the user. In addition, as a result of transparency updates introduced in the 2016 USA Freedom Act, the US government lifted the non-disclosure orders on 13 National Security Letters (NSLs) we received between 2014 and 2017. These requests, along with the US government’s authorization letters, are available below.

We always scrutinize each government request we receive for account data to make sure it is legally valid. If a request appears to be deficient or overly broad, we push back, and will fight in court, if necessary. In June, for example, a criminal court in Brazil ordered Facebook Brazil to wiretap all Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger accounts from a specific location and timeframe and threatened a penalty if we didn’t deliver the information. Facebook Brazil appealed the order highlighting that its broad scope was unconstitutional and violated people’s privacy rights. The court of appeals agreed with us and directed the trial court to suspend the order. This case shows how seriously we take our responsibility to protect data and the steps we’re willing to take to push back against overreaching government requests.

During the first half of 2018, the number of pieces of content we restricted based on local law increased 7%, from 14,280 to 15,337. We also identified 48 disruptions of Facebook services in 8 countries in the new reporting period, compared to 46 disruptions in 12 countries in the second half of 2017. We continue to be deeply concerned by internet disruptions, which prevent people from communicating with families and friends and also threaten the growth of small businesses.

The report also includes data covering the volume and nature of copyright, trademark and counterfeit reports we received, as well as the amount of content affected by those reports. During this period, on Facebook and Instagram we took down 2,999,278 pieces of content based on 466,810 copyright reports, 203,375 pieces of content based on 69,756 trademark reports, and 641,059 pieces of content based on 29,828 counterfeit reports.

Publishing this report reinforces our 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 early 2019. Please see the full report for more information.

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