India and Turkey: Restricting Free Speech Through Facebook and Social Media

Three Years of Data Trend Shed Light on Most Restrictive Governments 



Summary:  In 2013, Facebook started publishing data on the amount of content it restricted in different countries. Between July 2013 and December 2014, India and Turkey alone were responsible for 90% of the almost 26,000 pieces of restricted content.



The Report and the Data

We aggregated three years of Facebook reports on government content restriction requests. The data shows that most of those requests come from government of countries with a poor record on freedom of expression.

Governments all over the world monitor the Internet and censor the public debate in digital (social) media. In certain cases, they even prosecute social media users.

Governments can ask private entities, like Facebook, to remove/restrict content. Those companies then start an internal legal review and may decide to take the content down. 

This is how Facebook describes the takedown process: "Government entities sometimes submit reports to Facebook and other Internet companies about content that is believed to violate local law. If, after careful legal review, we find that the content is illegal under local law, then we make it unavailable only in the relevant country or territory." (Facebook).

Tracking these takedown requests paints a picture of which governments are most aggressively restricting free speech. Of course, some takedown requests are for removal of hate speech or government information deemed classified. But there is no way to know the exact nature of these requests, as they remain private. 



Top 10 Countries for Facebook Content Takedowns:  July 2013 - December 2014

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Distribution of Facebook Content Takedowns By Country: July 2013 - December 2014

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According to the OpenNet Initiative, the Indian government "often under the guise of security" applies a regime of "selective censorship", and it "censors media and online discussion, particularly in areas of social unrest"[1].

Turkey, the second country resorting to Facebook for content restriction, also has a dubious stance in protecting freedom of expression. The OpenNet Initiative reports that "despite Turkey’s commitment to free expression and freedom of information, the Penal Code broadly restricts such freedoms by criminalizing speech that insults the Turkish nation, Turkish government institutions, and Turkish ethnicity. A number of other legal acts shape the information available on the Internet by allowing state institutions to apply widely filtering and blocking mechanisms in order to prevent illegal information online" [2].



Facebook Censorship: A Growing Problem in Turkey, India and Russia



Turkey and India aren't only the biggest players when it comes to the amount of restricted content on Facebook. Together with Russia, they are also the only countries in the world where Facebook censorship is actually growing.

Percentage Increase: July-December 2013 vs. July-December 2014

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In Turkey, the pieces of restricted content in July-December 2014 were 80% more than the same period in 2013. In India the increase was by 22%. The 2013 base numbers were already larger than any other country. Just consider that the third country with most restricted content was Pakistan, with 162 pieces. This compares to Turkey's 2014 restricted pieces and India's 4765. 

In terms of relative growth, Russia's is highest. Restrictions soared by 1275%, jumping from the 4 pieces of restricted content for July-December 2014 to the 55 of the same period in 2014. That said, the volume of content restrictions remains tiny compared to Turkey and India. 

Facebook Content Restrictions by Country: Stack View Over Time

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Explore all Facebook Censorship Reports 2013-2014, aggregated

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