Facebook issued a biannual report on its relationships with the world’s governments on Tuesday (May 15), in which the company outlined how often authorities, groups, or private citizens ask it to remove content that violates local laws.
The data, which cover the second half of 2017, offer a glimpse into how severely certain states censor online content, separately from Facebook’s own moderation efforts. Topping the list is Turkey, whose authoritarian government is known for clamping down on free speech.
Facebook said that requests there came from Turkey’s communications authority, courts, ministry of health, and other government entities. The content was restricted according to the Turkey’s Internet Act, which “covers a range of offenses including personal rights violations, personal privacy, defamation of [the country’s founder, Kemal] Atatürk, and the unauthorized sale of regulated goods,” Facebook said. The law, which the advocacy group Human Rights Watch calls “draconian,” has resulted in tens of thousands of Turkish websites being blocked in recent years. The bulk of the Facebook posts from Turkey were restricted because of “private reports related to defamation,” which also fall under the Internet Act, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed.
Mexico takes the second spot because of a single video of a school shooting early last year. Facebook had to take down more than 2,100 instances of the clip, where a student shot several others before killing himself. In the first six months of 2017, it had to remove clips of the video more than 20,000 times.
Germany is also high on the list, in part because its constitution bans incitement to hatred. Facebook also removed more than 1,600 items related to Holocaust denial, which is illegal in Germany. (It also removed posts in Italy and Israel because of similar laws.) In 2017, Germany introduced a law that levies large fines against internet companies who don’t swiftly remove content that is illegal in the country. The law is widely seen as one of the strictest imposed on social media platforms in a democratic country. The amount of content restricted in Germany has been on a steep rise in recent years, according to Facebook’s reports.
In India and Pakistan, Facebook restricted content that violated local laws on defamation of religion or blasphemy, hate speech, and “defamation of the state” in India, and “condemnation of the country’s independence” in Pakistan.