Seeing through the irony

July 3, 2012 12:05 pm

Google and Twitter’s transparency reports make interesting reading for content creators

Anyone who appreciates irony may find the following rather appealing. Firstly, Google has recently released a Transparency Report in which the search giant claims that ‘transparency is a core value at Google. As a company we feel it is our responsibility to ensure that we maximize transparency around the flow of information related to our tools and services. We believe that more information means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual.’

It’s a very socially aware – and responsible – statement, until you stop to consider that Google is the company that raised such anxiety with the changes to its privacy settings earlier this year. Which either shows that the whipped-up paranoia was indeed unjustified, or that Google is actually LIFAO at all of us…

But setting cynicism aside for a moment and some interesting conclusions can be drawn from Google’s revelations, principally regarding which governments are most active in requesting the removal of content from Google services like YouTube. Google reports, for example, that ‘the number of content removal requests we received [from various US government agencies] increased by 103% compared to the previous reporting period.’

Twitter accepts the transparency challenge

A similar trend has emerged on Twitter, which has just released its very first Twitter Transparency Report in the form of a table detailing, by country, the number of requests the micro-blogging site has received from governments for user account information (shown below).

The stats show that nearly 80 per cent of all requests made to Twitter for information on its users to are made by the US government. Which is doubly ironic given that a few weeks ago the same US government announced sanctions against authoritarian regimes that block access to social media and online content and that freedom of speech is enshrined in the American Constitution. (However, it should be stressed that the US government requests to Twitter were generally made in the context of criminal investigations.)

It is also ironically amusing that Twitter’s debut report has been timed to coincide with Independence Day in the US – when Americans celebrate the overthrowing of (British) government tyranny.

‘One of our goals is to grow Twitter in a way that makes us proud,’ the company said. ‘This ideal informs many of our policies and guides us in making difficult decisions.’ But with Twitter revealing that it has received more government requests for information on users in the first half of 2012 than in the whole of 2011, there could be many more ‘difficult decisions’ like this one (forced upon it by a US court) to make in the future.

 

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