The Indian government lodged the most requests for Facebook user data after the United States globally in the first half of 2019, the social networking site has said in its Transparency Report published on Wednesday.

India lodged 22,684 queries, marking a 37% increase from the last half of 2018, while the United States government put in 50,741 requests. The social media company said it complied with some of the requests made by the Indian government, producing some user data in 54% of cases. “Facebook responds to government requests for data in accordance with applicable law and our terms of service,” the company added. “Each and every request we receive is carefully reviewed for legal sufficiency and we may reject or require greater specificity on requests that appear overly broad or vague.”

According to Facebook, the Indian government made 1,615 “emergency requests”, up from 861 in the second half of 2018. Last year, there was a three-fold jump in such requests as the government filed 1,478 queries, compared to 460 in 2017.

While data requests to US-based companies are usually routed through the US Department of Justice, following the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, “emergency” requests are sent directly to Facebook through its “law enforcement online request system”.

“In emergencies, law [agencies] may submit requests without legal process,” the company said. “Based on the circumstances, we may voluntarily disclose information to law enforcement [agencies], where we have a good faith reason to believe that the matter involves imminent risk of serious physical injury or death.”

While in 2016 not even 1% of government requests bypassed the established procedure, now about 7% of the requests are “emergency” queries, The Indian Express reported.

According to this year’s report, India has jumped from sixth to third place for the most requests to take down content because of alleged “hate speech, anti-religion content constituting incitement to violence, defamation, extremism, anti-government, and anti-state content”. Only Pakistan and Mexico have filed more such requests.

The social media company took down 1,211 posts, 19 pages or groups, and two profiles in the time period covered. The company included Instagram data for the first time in the transparency report, mentioning that it took down 17 accounts on the photograph-sharing site.

Leading in internet disruption

Facebook said India continued to top the list of Internet disruptions, with 40 shutdowns in the first half of 2019 that lasted a cumulative eight weeks.

Other than Jammu and Kashmir, where a communications blockade was implemented after the revocation of its special constitutional status, internet was shut down in Tripura, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The situation in Kashmir has not normalised till date despite the government’s claims to the contrary.

According to the social media company, the Election Commission requested 488 political advertisements to be “temporarily restricted” in the first half of 2019. General Elections were held in India in April and May.

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