United States

2,304

of 16,041

-9.0 %
Total account information requests
82
0.0 %
% where some information produced
100

of 381

+2.0 %
Total removal requests
0%
0.0 %
% where some content withheld
The sparklines represent the historical trends dating back to Twitter's first Transparency Report. The percentages show the change from the prior report to the latest report.
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  • Jul - Dec 2016
  • Jan - Jun 2016

United States information requests

Report Account information requests Percentage where some information produced Accounts specified

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

About the numbers

This data includes the number of government requests received for account information, as well as the percentage of requests we complied with in whole or in part from the United States.

As Twitter, Inc. is based in San Francisco, California, the majority of global government requests for account information we receive continue to come from the United States. From July to December 2016, 38% of all worldwide requests for account information come from the United States. The total number of requests from U.S. law enforcement and government entities decreased by 9%, while the total number of affected accounts decreased by 43%.

NOTE: The data above does not include national security requests. Please refer to the “National security requests” section below for information on the national security letters we are now legally permitted to speak about and an update on the Twitter v. Lynch lawsuit and our commitment to fighting for greater transparency in national security request reporting.

User Privacy

Twitter generally requires warrants to disclose any contents of communications. Exceptions may be made where the law specifically compels or provides for voluntary disclosure of contents of communication, including rare emergencies. Other exceptions provided for by law are consent to disclosure, NCMEC reporting, and National Security related requests.

In 2015, California passed CalECPA, a law that requires government entities in California to issue valid search warrants to obtain digital records, including emails and texts, as well as a user IP data. As Twitter is a company based in San Francisco, California, we try to enforce CalECPA (which went into effect in January 2016) and require valid search warrants from state and local law enforcement in jurisdictions where we cannot be properly served or where other valid objections are available.

In this reporting period, Twitter received 295 non-California state-issued subpoenas and court orders compared to 198 in our last report. We were successful in our approach to CalECPA with the request being domesticated in California, requests for IPs being withdrawn, or entire requests being withdrawn in 85 of the 295 cases. Between July and December 2016, 58% of affected users benefited from additional privacy protections provided by CalECPA prior to collection of IP information -- including judicial review, submission of a search warrant, which requires showing of probable cause and a judge’s signature, and user notice provisions.

In addition to applying innovative digital privacy protections to our own policies, Twitter works together with industry partners to enhance protections everywhere. For example, in December 2016, Twitter filed an amicus brief along with thirteen other companies in support of Facebook’s challenge regarding search warrants affecting 381 Facebook accounts submitted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. One of our primary arguments was that the rule established by the lower court offers no means for service providers to challenge warrants that appear to be overly broad or overreaching. In the Facebook case the gag orders that accompany the warrants are for an indefinite duration and any users not charged with a crime (319 out of 381 in this case) would never know that their information was subject to a search warrant which makes the provider, in some cases, the only party who can reasonably challenge a potentially improper warrant. In February 2017, Facebook and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office went to New York Court of Appeals to argue their cases. The panel of judges are expected to provide a ruling in the coming weeks.

For more details about global information requests, please refer to the latest report.

- -
- Requests
- Compliance
- Accounts Specified

Breakdown by state / territory (2016: Jul - Dec):

State name: Federal | State/Local

  • Alaska 4 | 2
  • Alabama 0 | 7
  • Arkansas 4 | 1
  • Arizona 10 | 14
  • California 167 | 60
  • Colorado 3 | 9
  • Connecticut 6 | 7
  • District of Columbia 271 | 13
  • Delaware 2 | 7
  • Florida 29 | 43
  • Georgia 17 | 37
  • Guam 0 | 0
  • Hawaii 1 | 0
  • Iowa 1 | 7
  • Idaho 4 | 0
  • Illinois 71 | 20
  • Indiana 5 | 10
  • Kansas 3 | 4
  • Kentucky 2 | 5
  • Louisiana 8 | 21
  • Massachusetts 3 | 18
  • Maryland 40 | 64
  • Maine 3 | 0
  • Michigan 20 | 22
  • Minnesota 46 | 23
  • Missouri 13 | 11
  • Mississippi 0 | 0
  • Montana 0 | 0
  • North Carolina 17 | 11
  • North Dakota 3 | 0
  • Nebraska 3 | 5
  • New Hampshire 1 | 1
  • New Jersey 20 | 33
  • New Mexico 0 | 2
  • Nevada 1 | 3
  • New York 187 | 101

 

  • Ohio 19 | 21
  • Oklahoma 4 | 3
  • Oregon 8 | 6
  • Pennsylvania 27 | 31
  • Puerto Rico 0 | 2
  • Rhode Island 1 | 2
  • South Carolina 4 | 5
  • South Dakota 0 | 1
  • Tennessee 8 | 8
  • Texas 32 | 84
  • Utah 3 | 3
  • Virginia 364 | 30
  • Vermont 3 | 1
  • Washington 23 | 7
  • Wisconsin 5 | 12
  • West Virginia 16 | 0
  • Requests from US Embassy Offices abroad 45

 

About the numbers

Requests are attributed to a particular state based on the location of the requesting office. Based on this approach, the top requesting locations were Virginia, New York, and Washington, D.C. respectively.

New York

  • New York is the second top requester, submitting 13% of total U.S. requests.

  • Compared to the previous reporting period, requests from New York decreased by 16% and affected 45% fewer accounts.

  • Federal requests make up 65% of the total number of requests from New York.

Virginia

  • At a combined state and federal level, Virginia submitted the most requests, making up 17% of total U.S. requests.
  • Requests from Virginia decreased by 14% and affected 36% fewer accounts compared to the last reporting period.
  • Federal requests make up 92% of the total number of requests from Virginia.

Washington, D.C.

  • Washington, D.C. came in third place as the top U.S. requester, submitting 12% of total requests and beating California which was one of the top three requesters in the last report.

  • Requests from Washington, D.C. decreased by 19% and affected 9% fewer accounts compared to the last reporting period.

  • Federal requests from the Washington, D.C. make up 95% of the total number of requests received from Washington, D.C.

Also, similar to the last report, the top requesting agencies were the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Secret Service, and the New York County District Attorney’s Office.

Footnotes

  • Information requests include both federal and state legal process. Requests are attributed to a particular state based on the location of the requesting office.

Types of legal process

United States types of legal process

Report Subpoenas Court orders Search warrants Others

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.  

About the numbers

Most U.S. information requests come in one of three forms of legal process:

Subpoenas

  • Subpoenas are the most common form of legal process issued under the Stored Communications Act. They do not generally require a judge’s sign-off and usually seek basic subscriber information, such as the email address associated with an account and IP logs. However, as noted above, Twitter may require search warrants from state-level law enforcement to obtain IP information.

Court orders

  • Unlike subpoenas, court orders must be issued by an appropriate court and signed by a judge. Law enforcement may request transactional information (i.e., the non-content portion of communications such as the "from," "to" and "date" fields of DMs) with federal 2703(d) court orders or state law equivalents.

Search warrants

  • As prescribed by the Fourth Amendment, warrants typically require the most judicial scrutiny before they are issued. A properly issued warrant, which includes a showing of probable cause and a judge’s signature, is required for the disclosure of the contents of communications (e.g., Tweet content , DM content, Vines, Periscope broadcasts).

Other

  • Requests from law enforcement that do not fall in any of the above categories. Examples include emergency disclosure requests and other requests received for account information without valid legal process.

Certain Types of Court Orders

Mutual legal assistance treaty requests

Mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) requests may authorize district courts within the United States to order Twitter to produce information for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal, including criminal investigations.

  • 2016: Jul 1 - Dec 31: 4% of court orders and 2% of search warrants received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 7 different countries.

    • MLAT identified countries: Argentina, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, and Spain.

    • Twitter may receive other U.S. requests for information on behalf of foreign governments based on other forms of cross-jurisdictional assistance. For example, requests may be issued under mutual legal assistance agreements with countries that have not yet been officially brought into force through an actual treaty. Or, MLAT requests may also be issued under multilateral treaties which the U.S. has signed and ratified like the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance of the Organization of American States or the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. This reporting period we received one court order on behalf of Colombia and one search warrant on behalf Lebanon. These requests are not included in the table above.

  • 2016: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 8% of court orders and 1% of search warrants received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 10 different countries.

    • MLAT Identified countries: Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

    • Twitter may receive other U.S. requests for information on behalf of foreign governments based on other forms of cross-jurisdictional assistance which are not reflected in the metrics above.

  • 2015: Jun 30 - Dec 31: 2015: 8% of court orders and 1% of search warrants received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 12 different countries.

    • Identified countries: Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

    • 21% of MLAT requests received originated from the Netherlands.

  • 2015: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 13% of court orders received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 8 different countries.

    • Identified countries: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Greece, India, Netherlands, and Spain.

  • 2014: July 1 - Dec 31: 6% of court orders/warrants received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 8 different countries.

    • Identified countries: Canada, Estonia, Lebanon, Netherlands, Peru, and Turkey; 39% of all identified MLATs originated from the Netherlands.

  • 2014: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 18% of court orders received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 10 different countries.

  • 2013: Jul 1 - Dec 31: 1% of court orders received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 5 different countries.

  • 2013: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 1% of court orders received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 8 different countries.

Pen register / trap and trace orders

Originally developed to obtain phone numbers from telecommunications providers, a pen register / trap and trace (PRTT) order (in the context of Twitter) provides law enforcement with legal authority to obtain IP address records and transactional information (i.e., the non-content portion of communications such as the "from," "to" and "date" fields) from the account identified in the order, generally for 60 days.

  • 2016: Jul 1 - Dec 31: 11% of court orders received were PRTT orders.
  • 2016: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 11% of court orders received were PRTT orders.
  • 2015: Jul 1 - Dec 31: 11% of court orders received were PRTT orders. 
  • 2015: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 11% of court orders received were PRTT orders
  • 2014: Jul 1 - Dec 31: 13% of court orders received were PRTT orders
  • 2014: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 8% of court orders received were PRTT orders. 
  • 2013: Jul 1 - Dec 31: < 1% of court orders received were PRTT orders.
  • 2013: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 5% of court orders received were PRTT orders.

Wiretap Orders

Orders issued under the Wiretap Act (18 U.S.C. § 2511 et seq.) allow law enforcement to intercept or collect the content of a target’s real-time communications. To date, Twitter has not received this type of court order. Note: Twitter has received legal process which purports to require real-time surveillance, but such orders have not been issued in compliance with the requirements of Wiretap Act. Such orders may be valid to compel disclosure of other information and are counted in totals based on our assessments.

All Writs Act Orders

The All Writs Act is a U.S. law from 1789 that allows a court to require third parties’ assistance to execute a prior order of the court. This law gives federal judges the power to order people to do things that are within legal limits. To our knowledge, Twitter has not yet been served an order under the All Writs Act. However, in February 2016, the F.B.I. issued an order under this 227-year-old law compelling Apple to develop software to bypass security protections to unlock an iPhone as part of the investigation into the 2015 San Bernardino shootings. Apple challenged the order, arguing that it would force the company to compromise the safety and security of all Apple product users and was not an appropriate use of the All Writs Act. Together with 16 other companies, Twitter filed an amicus brief in support of Apple’s position that the F.B.I. should not be able to force the company to create software designed to undermine its security. The U.S. Government ended up dropping the case against Apple, stating that they were able to successfully gain access to the iPhone in question and no longer needed Apple’s help in bypassing the encryption.

 

User notice

United States user notice

Report Percentage of requests under seal Percentage of requests where user notice provided Percentage not under seal and no notice provided

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

About the numbers

As noted in our Guidelines for Law Enforcement, we notify affected users of requests for their account information unless we’re prohibited or the request falls into one of the exceptions to our user notice policy (e.g., emergencies regarding imminent threat to life; child sexual exploitation; terrorism).

Indefinite non-disclosure orders

It is Twitter’s long-standing policy to notify users of government requests for their account information prior to disclosure unless we are prohibited from doing so. We may also provide delayed notice to affected users when prior notice is prohibited because we believe that users should know that the government has requested their information so they can intervene and take matters into their own hands whenever possible.

Twitter receives indefinite non-disclosure orders (NDOs) that do not include an explicit date when the confidentiality obligation expires and legally prohibit us from telling a user that his/her account is the subject of an information request. When we receive these orders, Twitter regularly asks for an amended order with a specified duration (e.g., 90 days). Twitter will continue to follow-up with requesters to seek amended orders so that we may notify users after the investigation has concluded as there have been judicial decisions that question the constitutionality of non-disclosure orders that do not specify an end date (e.g., John Doe, Inc. v. Mukasey, 549 F.3d 861, 871 (2nd Cir. 2008)). Also, by requiring state law enforcement to domesticate process in California, we are able to avoid indefinite non-disclosure obligations through application of CalECPA’s notice provisions.

Twitter continues to fight for changes to U.S. government procedures and legal authorities that allow indefinite non-disclosure obligations. Last report, we provided an update that we filed an amicus brief in Microsoft Corp. v. DOJ to support Microsoft in challenging the constitutionality of the provision in ECPA that seemingly allows judges to issue NDOs of unlimited durations. In February 2017, the Western Washington District Court ruled that Microsoft’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice will continue. The judge allowed Microsoft’s argument that the indefinite NDOs violate the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Twitter frequently receives NDOs of unlimited duration and believes the judge’s ruling in Microsoft Corp. v. DOJ is promising for our efforts to improve transparency to Twitter users through our user notice efforts. Twitter plans to continue to make efforts and work together with industry peers to advance user notice and First Amendment rights.

Footnotes

More information about user notice is available in our Guidelines for Law Enforcement.

'Percentage of requests under seal':

  • ‘Under seal’ means that a court has issued an order legally prohibiting us from notifying affected users (or anyone else) about the request.

'Percentage of requests where user notice provided':

  • This is the number of requests in which some user notice was provided out of the total number of requests received.
  • When not prohibited or under an exception to our notice policy, we send affected users notice of our receipt of a request for their information, including a copy of the legal process.

'Percentage of requests not under seal and no notice provided' for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The request was withdrawn by the requester prior to any disclosure.

  • No information was disclosed in response to the request.

  • The request was defective (e.g., improper jurisdiction, no valid Twitter @username), thus no action was taken and no information disclosed.

  • The request was an emergency disclosure request or fell into one of the exceptions to our user notice policy (e.g., child sexual exploitation; stalking; terrorism). See our Guidelines for Law Enforcement for more about emergencies.

  • Local law may prohibit us from providing notice.

National security requests

United States national security letters

Year received Number of NSLs - government initiated review Number of NSLs - provider requested review

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

About the numbers

For the first time, we are able to provide limited reporting on national security requests we have received. For now, this includes National Security Letters where the gag orders have been lifted. Notably, the government-mandated reporting bands are not required per the USA Freedom Act when national security legal process is no longer subject to nondisclosure requirements. This allows us to share actual numbers, which we believe are much more meaningful than the opaque bands.

Gag orders on National Security Letters are lifted in one of two different ways. The government may review whether gag orders should stay in place pursuant to DOJ Guidelines issued pursuant to the USA Freedom Act. If the gag orders are no longer needed, the government will notify the provider that the gag order is lifted. The other avenue – also created by the USA Freedom Act – allows providers to make a request to the government that a court review the gag order. The government may opt to lift the gag order and avoid the need to defend it in court. If the government believes the gag order should stay in place, the court conducts a review. If it determines that the gag order is no longer justified, the court lifts the gag order.  In this report, we are reporting on gag orders that were lifted through both channels.

As we stated in our last transparency report, Twitter is using the statutory provision available to us to challenge gag orders on National Security Letters. We are committed to doing this, as it is the most practical way right now to enable the desired level of transparency about these national security requests.

As in past reports, Twitter is not reporting on any other national security process we may have received because of our ongoing objections to the limitations imposed on us by the U.S. government. We continue to litigate this issue in our case Twitter v. Sessions (f.k.a. Twitter v. Lynch). On February 14, 2017, a hearing was held on the government’s motion for summary judgment. Twitter is actively seeking discovery from the government on the classification procedures and justifications that they rely on to bar our speech on this issue.

Footnotes

‘Number of NSLs - government initiated review’:

  • This is the number of national security letters (NSLs) received during the specified time frame in which the U.S. government notified Twitter that the gag order accompanying the NSL was lifted.

‘Number of NSLs- provider requested review’:

  • This is the number of national security letters (NSLs) received during the specified time frame in which Twitter notified the government of a request for gag orders to be reviewed by a court and the U.S. government lifted the gag order.

United States removal requests

Report Removal requests (court orders) Removal requests (government agency, police, other) Percentage where some content withheld Accounts reported Accounts withheld Tweets withheld Accounts (TOS)

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

About the numbers

This data includes government requests (and other complaints of illegal content from authorized reporters) we’ve received to remove or withhold content on Twitter from the United States. For more specific details, please refer to the latest report on removal requests.

United States information requests

Report Account information requests Percentage where some information produced Accounts specified

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

About the numbers

This data includes the number of government requests received for account information, as well as the percentage of requests we complied with in whole or in part from the United States. For the first time, we’ve also included a high-level breakdown of requests by U.S. state at the federal level and at the state level (below).

As Twitter, Inc. is based in San Francisco, California, the majority of global government requests for account information we receive continue to come from the United States. From January through June in 2016, 44% of all worldwide requests for account information originated from the United States. Twitter saw a 8% increase in the number of accounts affected by requests from U.S. law enforcement and government entities. When we receive requests for multiple accounts (usually due to large-scale investigations), we attempt to narrow the scope of the requests whenever possible.

At a combined state and federal level, Twitter received the most requests from California, New York, and Virginia. The top requesters were the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), the U.S. Secret Service, and the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Additionally, Twitter received 25 information requests, emergency and non-emergency combined, from U.S. embassies abroad.

NOTE: This data does not include national security requests. As specified in the USA Freedom Act, we would have to the report national security requests we receive in large, opaque bands. As outlined in our lawsuit against the U.S. government (Twitter v. Lynch), we have chosen not to include the requests in bands and we hope to be able to report meaningful numbers in future reports. Please refer to “National security update” below for additional insight regarding the Twitter v. Lynch lawsuit and our commitment to fighting for greater transparency in national security request reporting.

CalECPA and user privacy

Twitter generally requires warrants to disclose any contents of communications (exceptions being in rare emergency cases where law permits the disclosure of contents of communications when they may prevent serious physical injury or loss of life).

In 2015, California passed CalECPA, a law that requires government entities in California to issue valid search warrants to obtain digital records, including emails and texts, as well as a user IP data. As Twitter is a company based in San Francisco, California, we try to enforce CalECPA (which went into effect in Jan. 2016) and require valid search warrants from state and local law enforcement in jurisdictions where we cannot be properly served or other valid objections are available.

In this reporting period, Twitter pushed back on 198 non-California state-issued subpoenas and court orders. Our approach to CalECPA resulted in 22% of these requests being domesticated in California, requests for IPs being withdrawn, or requests being withdrawn in their entirety. These efforts allowed 24% of affected users to benefit from additional privacy protections provided by CalECPA prior to collection of IP information -- including judicial review and user notice provisions.

One particular example involved a subpoena authorized by court order compelling Twitter to appear in Iowa within a week of service to provide testimony and documents related to the contents of communications and other records associated with a Twitter account. Twitter pushed back on the request with concerns about the failure to use the Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses from Without a State in Criminal Proceedings to obtain California process. If the proper procedure had been followed, under CalECPA, a search warrant would have been clearly required by statute to obtain contents of communications and user notice protections would have applied. After the government refused to amend their request, Twitter filed a motion to quash the subpoena and vacate the order. After our filing, the court set the matter for hearing and the government withdrew the subpoena and filed a motion asking the court to cancel the hearing.

Twitter continues to support our users’ right to privacy and works together with industry partners to enhance protections. CalECPA is a step in the right direction of reforms of digital privacy protections.

For more details about global information requests, please refer to the latest report.

Breakdown by state / territory (2016: Jan - Jun):

State name: Federal | State/Local

  • Alaska    0 | 1
  • Alabama 3 | 6
  • Arkansas 1 | 7
  • Arizona 5 | 7
  • California 231 | 69
  • Colorado 4 | 8
  • Connecticut 16 | 18
  • District of Columbia 228 | 6
  • Delaware 2 | 2
  • Florida 41 | 50
  • Georgia 16 | 28
  • Guam    0 | 3
  • Hawaii    2 | 0
  • Iowa 1 | 12
  • Idaho 0 | 0
  • Illinois 123 | 38
  • Indiana 6 | 15
  • Kansas 0 | 5
  • Kentucky 3 | 13
  • Louisiana 3 | 15
  • Massachusetts 16 | 37
  • Maryland 22 | 59
  • Michigan 21 | 35
  • Minnesota 35 | 13
  • Missouri 5 | 13
  • Mississippi 0 | 4
  • Montana 0 | 1
  • North Carolina 17 | 21
  • Nebraska 0 | 1
  • New Hampshire 1 | 5
  • New Jersey 21 | 56
  • New Mexico 1 | 6
  • Nevada 1 | 8
  • New York 223 | 116
  • Ohio 16 | 42
  • Oklahoma 2 | 4
  • Oregon 3 | 6
  • Pennsylvania 20 | 34
  • Puerto Rico 1 | 5
  • Rhode Island 0 | 4
  • South Carolina 1 | 9
  • South Dakota 0 | 7
  • Tennessee 5 | 8
  • Texas 27 | 78
  • Utah 5 | 4
  • Virginia 425 | 23
  • Vermont 0 | 1
  • Washington 12 | 6
  • Wisconsin 5 | 17
  • Requests from US Embassy Offices abroad 25

Footnotes

  • Information requests include both federal and state legal process. Requests are attributed to a particular state based on the location of the requesting office.

Types of legal process

United States types of legal process

Report Subpoenas Court orders Search warrants Others

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.  

About the numbers

Most U.S. information requests come in one of three forms of legal process:

Subpoenas

  • Subpoenas are the most common form of legal process issued under the Stored Communications Act. They do not generally require a judge’s sign-off and usually seek basic subscriber information, such as the email address associated with an account and IP logs. However, as noted above, Twitter may require search warrants from state-level law enforcement to obtain IP information.

Court orders

  • Unlike subpoenas, court orders must be issued by an appropriate court and signed by a judge. Law enforcement may request transactional information (i.e., the non-content portion of communications such as the "from," "to" and "date" fields of DMs) with federal 2703(d) court orders or state law equivalents.

Search warrants

  • As prescribed by the Fourth Amendment, warrants typically require the most judicial scrutiny before they are issued. A properly issued warrant, which includes a showing of probable cause and a judge’s signature, is required for the disclosure of the contents of communications (e.g., Tweet content , DM content, Vines, Periscope broadcasts).

Other

  • Requests from law enforcement that do not fall in any of the above categories. Examples include emergency disclosure requests and other requests received for account information without valid legal process.

Certain types of court orders

Mutual legal assistance treaty requests

Mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) requests may authorize district courts within the United States to order Twitter to produce information for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal, including criminal investigations.

  • 2016: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 8% of court orders and 1% of search warrants received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 10 different countries.

    • MLAT Identified countries: Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

    • Twitter may receive other U.S. requests for information on behalf of foreign governments based on other forms of cross-jurisdictional assistance which are not reflected in the metrics above.

  • 2015: Jun 30 - Dec 31: 2015: 8% of court orders and 1% of search warrants received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 12 different countries.

    • Identified countries: Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

    • 21% of MLAT requests received originated from the Netherlands.

  • 2015: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 13% of court orders received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 8 different countries.

    • Identified countries: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Greece, India, Netherlands, and Spain.

  • 2014: July 1 - Dec 31: 6% of court orders/warrants received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 8 different countries.

    • Identified countries: Canada, Estonia, Lebanon, Netherlands, Peru, and Turkey; 39% of all identified MLATs originated from the Netherlands.

  • 2014: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 18% of court orders received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 10 different countries.

  • 2013: Jul 1 - Dec 31: 1% of court orders received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 5 different countries.

  • 2013: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 1% of court orders received have been explicitly identified as having been issued through MLAT procedures, coming from 8 different countries.

Pen register / trap and trace orders

Originally developed to obtain phone numbers from telco providers, a pen register / trap and trace (PRTT) order (in the context of Twitter) provides law enforcement with legal authority to obtain IP address records and transactional information (i.e., the non-content portion of communications such as the "from," "to" and "date" fields) from the account identified in the order, generally for 60 days.

  • 2016: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 11% of court orders received were PRTT orders.

  • 2015: Jul 1 - Dec 31: 11% of court orders received were PRTT orders.

  • 2015: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 11% of court orders received were PRTT orders

  • 2014: Jul 1 - Dec 31: 13% of court orders received were PRTT orders

  • 2014: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 8% of court orders received were PRTT orders.

  • 2013: Jul 1 - Dec 31: < 1% of court orders received were PRTT orders.

  • 2013: Jan 1 - Jun 30: 5% of court orders received were PRTT orders.

Wiretap Orders

Orders issued under the Wiretap Act (18 U.S.C. § 2511 et seq.) allow law enforcement to intercept or collect the content of a target’s real-time communications. To date, Twitter has not received this type of court order. Note: Twitter has received legal process which purports to require real-time surveillance, but such orders have not been issued in compliance with the requirements of Wiretap Act. Such orders may be valid to compel disclosure of other information and are counted in totals based on our assessments.

All Writs Act Orders

The All Writs Act is a U.S. law from 1789 that allows a court to require third parties’ assistance to execute a prior order of the court. The law gives federal judges the power to order people to do things that are within legal limits. To our knowledge, Twitter has not yet been served an order under the All Writs Act. However, in February 2016, the F.B.I. issued an order under this 227-year-old law compelling Apple to develop software to bypass security protections to unlock an iPhone as part of the investigation into the 2015 San Bernardino shootings. Apple challenged the order, arguing that it would force the company to compromise the safety and security of all Apple product users and was not an appropriate use of the All Writs Act. Together with 16 other companies, Twitter filed an amicus brief in support of Apple’s position that the F.B.I. should not be able to force the company to create software designed to undermine its security. The U.S. Government ended up dropping the case against Apple, stating that they were able to successfully gain access to the iPhone in question and no longer needed Apple’s help in bypassing the encryption.

User notice

United States user notice

Report Percentage of requests under seal Percentage of requests where user notice provided Percentage not under seal and no notice provided

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

About the numbers

As noted in our Guidelines for Law Enforcement, we notify affected users of requests for their account information unless we’re prohibited or the request falls into one of the exceptions to our user notice policy.

Indefinite non-disclosure orders

It is Twitter’s policy to notify users of government requests for their account information prior to disclosure unless we are prohibited from doing so. We may also provide delayed notice to affected users when prior notice is prohibited because we believe that users should know that the government has requested their information so they can intervene and take matters into their own hands whenever possible.  

Twitter receives indefinite non-disclosure orders (NDOs), or NDOs that do not include an explicit date when the confidentiality obligation expires and legally prohibit us from telling a user that his/her account is the subject of an information request. When we receive these orders, Twitter frequently asks for an amended order with a specified duration (e.g., 90 days). Twitter will continue to follow-up with requesters to seek amended orders so that we may notify users after the investigation has concluded as there have been judicial decisions that question the constitutionality of non-disclosure orders that do not specify an end date (e.g., John Doe, Inc. v. Mukasey, 549 F.3d 861, 871 (2nd Cir. 2008)). Also, by requiring state law enforcement to domesticate process in California, we are able to avoid indefinite non-disclosure obligations through application of CalECPA’s notice provisions.

Twitter continues to fight for changes to U.S. government procedures and legal authorities that allow indefinite non-disclosure obligations because nearly half of the legal process that Twitter receives from U.S. government agencies in criminal investigations includes some form of non-disclosure obligation and any national security-related legal process received would include such obligations.

For example, Twitter recently filed an amicus brief in Microsoft Corp. v. DOJ to support Microsoft in challenging the constitutionality of the provision in ECPA that seemingly allows judges to issue NDOs of unlimited durations. The frequency with which Twitter receives indefinite NDOs shows the impact on our user notice efforts and First Amendment rights. As stated in our amicus brief, in the period combining 2015 and the first half of 2016, Twitter received legal process to compel customer information under the Stored Communications Act a total of 6,432 times. Of those, 3,315 were accompanied by gag orders under Section 2705(b). Another 784 were accompanied by gag orders under state authorities such as state equivalents of the Stored Communications Act. In other words, legal process seeking to compel disclosure was accompanied by a gag order 64% of the time, with 52% of legal process coming with a gag order specifically under Section 2705(b). Further, when the government obtained gag orders under Section 2705(b), the nondisclosure obligation was indefinite in duration 47% of the time, reflecting 1,565 out of 3,315 cases. This rate varied depending on the type of compelled legal process received under the Stored Communications Act. Gag orders under Section 2705(b) were indefinite 63% of the time that they accompanied search warrants (83/131); 33% of the time that they accompanied 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d) court orders (146/436); and 49% of the time that they accompanied subpoenas (1,336/2,748). The high percentage of Section 2705(b) orders accompanying subpoenas is particularly noteworthy because the government, which can otherwise issue subpoenas without the court’s approval, must separately seek a court order mandating nondisclosure.

We note that there have been a number of recent judicial decisions that have rejected non-disclosure orders of unlimited duration, in the context of both criminal legal process and national security legal process. See In re Nat’l Sec. Letters, No. 16-518 (JEB), Memorandum Opinion and Order (D.D.C. July 25, 2016), http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/sites/dcd/files/16-518Opinion_Redacted.pdf; In re Grand Jury Subpoena for: [Redacted]@yahoo.com, 79 F. Supp. 3d 1091 (N.D. Cal. 2015); In re Nat’l Sec. Letter, No. CIV. JKB-15-1180, ___ F. Supp. 3d ___, 2015 WL 10530413 (D. Md. Sept. 17, 2015); In re Search Warrant for: [redacted]@hotmail.com, 74 F. Supp. 3d 1184 (N.D. Cal. 2014).

National security update

Twitter continues its fight for transparency in the national security context in our case, Twitter v. Lynch. The Lynch case is Twitter’s First Amendment challenge to the government’s refusal to permit Twitter to publish information about the amount of national security process it may have received from the government. Twitter contends that the information that it seeks to publish has not been properly classified by the government and will be seeking discovery from the government that bears upon the government’s purported classification decisions. Twitter is seeking a declaratory judgment and injunction that would allow Twitter to include the challenged quantitative information in its transparency reports. Twitter expects discovery will begin in the coming months. Next steps in the case will be updated in our next report in the winter.

Footnotes

More information about user notice is available in our Guidelines for Law Enforcement.

Percentage of requests under seal:

  • ‘Under seal’ means that a court has issued an order legally prohibiting us from notifying affected users (or anyone else) about the request.

Percentage of requests where user notice provided:

  • This is the amount of requests in which some user notice was provided out of total amount of requests received.
  • When not prohibited or under an exception to our notice policy, we send affected users notice of our receipt of a request for their information, including a copy of the legal process.

Percentage of requests not under seal and no notice provided for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The request was withdrawn by the requester prior to any disclosure.
  • No information was disclosed in response to the request.
  • The request was defective (e.g., improper jurisdiction, no valid Twitter @username), thus no action was taken and no information disclosed.
  • The request was an emergency disclosure request; see our Guidelines for Law Enforcement for more about emergencies.
  • Local law may prohibit us from providing notice.
  • Exceptions to prior notice may also include exigent or counterproductive circumstances (e.g., child sexual exploitation; stalking; terrorism).

United States removal requests

Report Removal requests (court orders) Removal requests (government agency, police, other) Percentage where some content withheld Accounts reported Accounts withheld Tweets withheld Accounts (TOS)

NOTE: The data in these reports is as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

About the numbers

This data includes government requests (and other complaints of illegal content from authorized reporters) we’ve received to remove or withhold content on Twitter from the United States. For more specific details, please refer to the latest report on removal requests.