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Wed 19 Aug 2015 01:38 PM

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Saudi Arabia increases requests for Twitter user IDs

Twitter says government made 93 requests for users’ information during H1 compared to just 31 in H2 2014

Saudi Arabia increases requests for Twitter user IDs

Saudi authorities have ramped up their demands for information about the identity of Twitter users this year, according to the social media site’s twice yearly transparency report.

Saudi Arabia made 93 requests for the identity of Twitter users during H1 2015, compared to 31 requests during H2 2014, Twitter said.

The website handed over 69 percent of the requested information, affecting 112 users, it said.

Kuwait also saw a marked rise in requests for information, requesting information relating to 16 accounts during H1 – nearly double the total number of requests made previously. And while Twitter has previously denied any of the requests made by Kuwait, during H1 it released 100 percent of the requested information, the website said.

The report does not go into the details of the information released to governments.

Twitter said it notified affected users, “unless we’re prohibited or the request falls into one of the exceptions to our user notice policy”.

It also may not comply with a request if there was a valid challenge from users or the Twitter account was not properly identified.

Twitter said HA 2015 had seen the highest increase in government requests for information compared to the previous six months since its transparency reports began in 2012.

“We’ve received 52 percent more requests for account information affecting 78 percent more account holders during the first half of 2015 than in the previous reporting period,” Twitter said on its transparency report website.

“This is the largest increase in requests and affected accounts between reporting periods since we began publishing the Transparency Report in 2012.”

The US continues to make the majority of requests for account information, comprising 56 percent of all requests received.

Japan overtook Turkey as the second largest requester, as Turkish authorities reduced their requests by 9 percent.

The UK also remains high on the list, comprising 7 percent of total requests.

There were no requests from Qatar, Oman or Bahrain, while the UAE made two requests for information and Twitter compiled with one of them.

Authorities have in some cases cracked down on social media users who post comments it deems against the national interest or who challenge political views.

Saudi Arabia’s religious police shut down more than 10,000 Twitter accounts last year, for “violating religious standards”, according to local media.

Meanwhile, a Brookings Institute study released in April said there were more Twitter accounts created by ISIL supporters in Saudi Arabia than anywhere else in the world, with 866 accounts, compared to 507 and 453 in the militant group’s strongholds of Syria and Iraq, respectively.