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One Area of Growth for Twitter: Government Info Requests on Users

Government requests for info on users almost doubled compared to last year.

Anthony Quintano for Re/code

Twitter may be having a few issues attracting new users, but it’s become an increasingly popular service with government lawyers, who have been bombarding the social network with more requests for information on users.

In it’s fifth transparency report, released Thursday morning, Twitter said that it had received 2,058 requests for information on users in the first half of 2014, compared to 1,157 in the same time period last year. About 60 percent of those information requests came from the U.S. government, Twitter said.

Twitter has been releasing the reports biannually since 2012 and the data has shown a steady increase in government requests (most from the U.S.) for information about users.

In a related blog post, Twitter’s legal department said it hasn’t made much headway in its effort to provide more information about data requests it receives from the U.S. intelligence community. Other Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, reached a deal with the Justice Department to release some details about national security data requests, but only in frustratingly large number ranges.

Twitter wants to release more granular data but Obama administration lawyers aren’t enthusiastic about the idea. In early April, Twitter said it sent its draft midyear transparency report which showed “relevant information about national security requests” to Justice Department lawyers with a request for information about what information was classified or couldn’t be published.

“At this point, over 90 days have passed, and we still have not received a reply,” Twitter said Thursday. The company repeated it was considering its legal options against the U.S. government to release more information.

The most recent report also details some of the battles it has faced around the globe with governments that have objected to information posted by users on the service, most notably Turkey, which blocked the service for much of the spring as the country prepared for national elections.

Government requests for tweets to be removed from the service also increased during the first half of the year, compared to 2013. The country with the largest number of removal requests was Turkey with 186 requests, Twitter said.

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