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Facebook: Slight Rise in Government Data Requests

FILE - Thousands of servers are pictured at the Facebook Data Center, its first outside the US on Nov. 7, 2013 in Lulea, in Swedish Lapland.

Facebook Inc. recorded a slight increase in government requests for account data in the second half of 2014, according to its Global Government Requests Report, which includes information about content removal.

Requests for account data increased to 35,051 in the second half of 2014 from 34,946 in the first half, with requests from countries such as India rising and those from others including United States and Germany falling, the report by the world's largest Internet social network showed.

Facebook said it restricted 9,707 pieces of content for violating local laws, 11 percent more than in the first half, with access restricted to 5,832 pieces in India and 3,624 in Turkey.

“We will continue to scrutinize each government request and push back when we find deficiencies. We will also continue to push governments around the world to reform their surveillance practices in a way that maintains the safety and security of their people while ensuring their rights and freedoms are protected,” Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management wrote in a blog post.

Bickert said Facebook challenges requests that appear to be “unreasonable” or “overbroad” and if a country requests content be removed because it is illegal, Facebook may restrict access only in that country.

The technology industry has pushed for greater transparency on government data requests, seeking to shake off concerns about their involvement in vast, surreptitious surveillance programs revealed by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google last year began publishing details about the number of government requests for data they receive.

'Community standards'

Facebook on Sunday also updated its "community standards" guidelines to tell users what types of posts are not allowed on the service, providing guidance on policies related to self-injury, dangerous organizations, bullying and harassment, criminal activity, sexual violence and exploitation.

The world's biggest social network said it does not allow a presence from groups promoting "terrorist activity, organized criminal activity or promoting hate."

The new guidelines said Facebook will take down "graphic images when they are shared for sadistic pleasure or to celebrate or glorify violence." Nudity is also removed in many cases but allowed for images of breastfeeding, art or medical conditions.

The new guidelines also said Facebook members should use their "authentic name," a move that appears to head off criticism from people who used stage or performance names instead of their legal name.

Some material for this report came from AFP.