Data visualization reveals Twitter censorship by country: How does your country rate?

By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James

We’ve all heard of state controlled media. China has its fair share, and North Korea’s government-run media machine is infamous for producing (almost) comical perceptions, rebuffs and retorts.

But, what about state censored social media?

During the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 (part of the broader ‘Arab Spring’ that begin in late 2010 with the Tunisian Revolution) social media, and particularly Twitter, was used pervasively to break newsworthy developments and swiftly coordinate protests.

Since that time, many governments around the world have taken a deeper look at socio-political Tweets – particularly those led by independent media outlets. So, which countries have made the biggest attempts to censor socio-political Twitter chatter? As usual, Business Intelligence software and data visualization techniques reveal the answer.

Top 10 Twitter removal requests by country (2014 – Q3 2015)


Insights

  • Turkey alone accounted for the majority of worldwide Twitter removal requests across 2014 (54%) and up to Q3 2015 (71.6%)
  • By Q3 2015, Turkey had already far exceeded the total number of Twitter removal requests compared to 2014 (718 vs 662) as well as the percentage of total global Twitter removal requests (71.6% vs 54%)
  • Up until Q3 2015, Russia made the second highest number of Twitter removal requests, accounting for a distant 6.8% of total removal requests
  • In 2014, it was France who had the second highest proportion (and total number) of removal requests, with 11.6% of the total
  • With the exceptions of Turkey, India and South Korea, all countries listed in the top 10 have made fewer Twitter removal requests up until Q3 2015 compared to 2014 and also make-up a smaller proportion of global Twitter removal requests

Turkish authorities take exception to Twitter

Of the countries that allow access to Twitter (an important point to recognize in the context of these results), the governmental agencies of Turkey make the most attempts to censor the tweets of its citizens – by a long way. So much so, in fact, that Turkish authorities accounted for 54% of all global Twitter removal requests in 2014, rising to 71.6% in 2015 (as of Q3).

Almost all of these censorship attempts in Turkey were made against media organizations or representatives. Unsurprisingly, these figures are indicative of broader media censorship in Turkey, with a total of 143 cases of violations or censorship against journalists’ freedom of speech in Turkey from June 2014 to June 2015.

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