Experts warn expansive new surveillance laws and lax attitudes threaten civil liberties and expose new vulnerabilities.
Social media giant Twitter announced it has suspended 636,248 accounts since the middle of 2015 as the company steps up efforts to counter “promotion of terrorism” around the world.
In its latest transparency report published on Tuesday, the company said 376,890 accounts were shut down in the last six months of 2016.
The move comes as social networks are under pressure from governments around the world to use technology tools to lock out individuals promoting religious violence, and others who use the platforms to recruit and launch attacks.
The microblogging platform also announced that the FBI had informed the company it was no longer under a “gag order” that prevented the disclosure of five cases involving “national security letters” – special requests from the US law enforcement agency in national security cases.
As a result, Twitter was able to inform the affected users of the FBI requests.
“As we continue to push for more transparency in how we can speak about national security requests, we will update this new section in future transparency reports,” Twitter said.
The San Francisco-based company also announced the number of government requests for user data rose 7 percent from the prior six-month period.
Another section of the transparency report was devoted to “legal removals”, or requests to remove content from verified journalists and other media outlets.
“Given the concerning global trend of various governments cracking down on press freedom, we want to shine a brighter light on these requests,” Twitter said.
It received 88 legal requests from around the world to remove content posted by verified journalists or news outlets, but did not take any action on the majority “with limited exceptions in Germany and Turkey”, which accounted for 88 percent of such requests.
“For example, we were compelled to withhold tweets sharing graphic imagery following terror attacks in Turkey in response to a court order,” Twitter said.
Twitter, which is pressured by certain governments to remove “hate speech” also disclosed for the first time a partnership with a third-party research group called Lumen to catalog any information removed.
Twitter said it began the agreement with Lumen in 2010.
“Unless we are prevented from doing so, when we withhold content in a certain country, Twitter will continue to provide a copy of the request to Lumen so anyone can see what type of content was removed and who made the request,” the company said.