Legal request FAQs

My account was named in a legal request. What does this mean?

Important: When we reference ‘legal requests’ we are generally referring to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal documents that cite a statute or other law in association with some sort of claim or demand. Legal requests may ask for us to turn over information about a Twitter account and/or ask to remove content, like Tweets.

About the notice you received from Twitter

Twitter may notify you of the existence of a legal request pertaining to your account unless we are 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). We understand that receiving this type of notice can be an unsettling experience. We have notified you so that you can avail yourself of the rights available for your particular situation in your specific jurisdiction. We want you to have an opportunity to evaluate the request and, if necessary, take appropriate action to protect your interests. This may include seeking legal counsel and challenging the request in court, voluntarily deleting the content (if applicable), or finding some other resolution. Please refer to the notice you received for more information on any deadlines or time sensitivities.

Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with any legal advice and cannot provide any further information beyond what we provided in our notice. If you wish to seek legal counsel, here are some resources that may help.

  • For U.S. legal requests, you might consider contacting the American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org/affiliates, +1 212-549-2500) or the Electronic Frontier Foundation (https://www.eff.org/pages/legal-assistance, info@eff.org, +1 415-436-9333). 
  • For non-U.S. legal requests, you might consider contacting a local attorneys’ association or law school, which may be able to provide you with contact information for specialised legal assistance on free expression issues or reduced-cost legal aid services available in your location.

More general information about the different types of legal requests we receive is available below.
 

What happens when Twitter receives a legal request?

Below you will find a step-by-step process outlining the life cycle of a typical legal request request submitted to Twitter.


Submission process
A legal request for information about a Twitter account is first submitted to Twitter via email, mail, fax, or our Legal Request Submissions Site (LRS; https://t.co/lr) by law enforcement, a government agency, a lawyer representing a criminal defendant, or a civil litigant.


Preliminary review
A Twitter agent first reviews the legal request to determine whether it meets relevant statutory requirements. If the request meets all relevant statutory requirements, a Twitter agent will then review the reported account or Tweets for any indications that the request seeks to restrict or chill freedom of expression; raises other Twitter policy concerns (e.g., accounts belonging to journalists, verified accounts, or accounts containing political speech); or raises practical or technical concerns (e.g., the account or content at issue is no longer available). During this step, Twitter may ask the requester for additional context before considering any responsive disclosure or taking action on the account, or pushing back on the request in its entirety due to various circumstances (e.g., nature of the underlying crime, request is overbroad, request is missing a required signature, request for content with the incorrect legal process).


User notice

By default, Twitter will attempt to notify the reported account holder(s) of the existence of a legal request pertaining to the account(s) if we are not otherwise prohibited from doing so. Exceptions to user notice may include exigent circumstances, such as emergencies regarding imminent threats to life, child sexual exploitation, or terrorism. Twitter attempts to notify the user(s) about the legal request through a notification in the Twitter app and by sending a message to the email address associated with the account(s), if available. If we are not permitted to notify the user(s) at this step in the process (e.g., because the legal request is accompanied by a non-disclosure order), we may notify the user(s) about the existence of a legal request after Twitter has withheld the reported content or disclosed information associated with the Twitter account(s).


Twitter’s Response

The Twitter agent then applies our company policies for handling legal requests, which may differ depending on the jurisdiction from which the request originated. For content removal requests, this may mean the reported content violates Twitter’s Terms of Service or Rules, and the content will be removed from the Twitter platform. Or, perhaps the content is determined to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction and Twitter will withhold access to the identified content in the location in which it is alleged to be in violation of local law. For information requests, Twitter may file or serve objections for requests that are legally defective, overly broad, and/or appear to impermissibly burden free expression. Twitter also checks whether the user(s) filed any objections with the appropriate court. For valid and properly scoped information requests where there has not been a successful objection by Twitter or the user(s), a Twitter agent will assemble the required account records and produce them electronically through our secure LRS site to the requester. Once the records have been produced, the case is considered completed and closed unless we’re able to provide delayed notice to affected users after the expiration of an associated non-disclosure order. 

Frequently asked questions about legal requests

How will I know if I got a notice from Twitter regarding a legal request?

Twitter attempts to alert you about a legal request we have received via the email address associated with your account. We may have difficulty delivering notice to users who do not have a current or valid email address associated with the Twitter account.

 

Why did Twitter tell me about the request?

Transparency and user empowerment are two of our guiding principles at Twitter. While you may be concerned by this type of notice, we want you to know that the request exists and that we may be compelled to take some action such as producing account information or withholding content. Before taking action, we want to provide you with an opportunity to review the legal request and the option to take measures to protect your interests. When prior notice is not possible, you may receive delayed notice. Delayed notice means that we may notify you about the existence of a legal request after Twitter has withheld your content or after Twitter has been compelled to disclose information associated with your Twitter account.

We attempt to notify users regarding legal requests pertaining to their accounts, however, we may be legally prohibited from doing so. For example, if we receive a legal request that has been sealed by a judge, we are not permitted to communicate about the request until the confidentiality obligation expires. There are also limited policy exceptions to providing notice such as emergencies regarding imminent threats to life, incidents involving child sexual exploitation, or acts of terrorism, when we do not provide user notice.

 

What types of legal requests does Twitter receive?

Legal requests may come from law enforcement, government agencies, lawyers representing a criminal defendant, civil litigants, or from other authorised reporters such as official anti-discrimination organisations in Europe.

  • Information requests – Law enforcement requests for account information are usually issued in connection with criminal investigations. Twitter also receives emergency disclosure requests from law enforcement. If we receive information that provides us with a good faith belief that there is an exigent emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury to a person, we may provide information necessary to prevent that harm, if we have it. Civil requests for account information are typically made by lawyers in connection with non-criminal/civil legal actions such as a divorce proceeding or a business dispute.
  • Removal requests – Twitter sometimes receives legal requests alleging that content posted to Twitter may be illegal in one or more countries around the world. For example, content may be alleged to violate laws related to defamation, illegal activities, or national security. Requests may also be reporting content that is potentially in violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service or Rules.

 

Can I get more information about the legal requests that Twitter receives?

Twice a year, Twitter publishes a transparency report that includes details about the government and non-government requests we receive. We provide information about our compliance rate, which countries make the most requests, and any trends we noticed during the reported time frame. We encourage you to read through our report, as well as those of other providers whose services you use to stay informed about the impact of these requests.

 

Questions about information requests:

What types of account information may be produced in response to a valid legal request?

Obtaining non-public information, such as an email address used to sign-up for an account or IP login information, requires valid legal process like a subpoena, court order, or other local legal process, depending on the country that issues the request.

Requests for the contents of communications (e.g., Tweets, Direct Messages, media) require a valid search warrant or equivalent to be properly served on the correct Twitter corporate entity. Law enforcement or government agents must demonstrate a higher burden of proof before a judge will authorize such a request.

For additional information on the types of legal process required to obtain specific types of account information please see the “Types of Legal Process” section in our transparency report and Twitter’s Guidelines for Law Enforcement.

Note: Twitter makes your IP logs and some other non-public account information available directly to you when logged into your Twitter account. For more details, please refer to this article about accessing your Twitter data.

Does Twitter always turn over all of the information requested by valid legal requests?

No. Twitter may seek to narrow requests that are overly broad, request additional context if the nature of the investigation is not clear, or push back on the request for other reasons. For example, Twitter may receive requests for contents of communications, such as Direct Messages (“DMs”) or Tweets, from countries outside of the United States. We generally refer the requester to the procedures available under a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) or letter rogatory and do not provide contents of communication in response to the local legal process.

Questions about removal requests:

How does Twitter determine whether or not it will remove my content and how will I know?

The outcome is different depending on whether the reported content violates Twitter’s Terms of Service or Rules or whether it is alleged to be illegal in a certain jurisdiction, but does not otherwise violate Twitter’s Terms of Service or Rules.

  • If the reported content violates Twitter’s Terms of Service or Rules:
    • It is removed from the Twitter platform. 
    • You will get a message that your account has been suspended or locked when you log-in. The message may say that you need to take certain actions before you use your account again.
      • For certain violations or in case of repeat infringements, your account may be permanently suspended. For more information about suspended or locked accounts, you may visit our dedicated Help Center pages.
  • If the reported content refers to sensitive media:
    • The content will be labelled as sensitive, so other users may choose whether or not they wish to view it.
  • If reported content does not violate Twitter’s Terms of Service or Rules, but is alleged to be illegal in one or more jurisdictions:
    • Twitter will attempt to notify you that we have received a legal request claiming the content of your account is potentially illegal. 
      • We will include a copy of the legal request unless prohibited.
        • The reason we do this is so users may choose to delete the content at issue, respond directly to the requester if possible, or seek legal advice to challenge the request, before we may take any action on the reported content. 
      • Our notice does not represent legal advice that certain content should be deleted. It is only meant to inform you that certain content on your Twitter account has been identified in a legal request, so you can decide whether, or how, you will respond, and to inform you that it may be necessary for us to take action on the reported content based on the underlying legal request.
    • We may withhold access to the identified content in the location in which it is alleged to be in violation of local law.
      • This means that other users trying to view the content in the jurisdiction where it was reported will see the messaging below instead:

For a Tweet:

For an account:

Note: It is the location of the viewer that matters, rather than the location of the reported user. For example, if certain content is reported in the United States, we may withhold this content in the United States regardless of whether the person who Tweeted the content is located in the United States or another country.

For more information, please see our country withheld content article.

 

Can I appeal Twitter’s decision to withhold my content?
If you believe your content was withheld in error, you may appeal by responding directly to the email we sent notifying you of the withholding (if based on a legal demand) or by contacting us through our Help Center (if withheld based on local law).

What is Lumen and how does it relate to Twitter and removal requests?

To further our transparency efforts, we established a partnership with the Lumen project (formerly Chilling Effects) in 2010. Lumen is an independent third party research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content. They collect and analyse complaints about online activity, especially requests to remove content. Unless we are prevented from doing so, when we withhold content in a certain country (and also for DMCA notices), Twitter will provide a copy of the request to Lumen so anyone can see what type of content was removed and who made the request. We strive to provide complete information to Lumen, but we may, if required, redact certain details, such as personal addresses or phone numbers, for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

 

What if it is determined that my Tweets are allowed?

If content that was withheld in response to a legal request becomes allowed in the future, where we can, we will restore access to it so anyone in the world can view it.

Some circumstances in which we have un-withheld content in the past include:

  • An objection filed by Twitter against a court order deeming certain content was illegal was accepted by a higher court.
  • An objection filed by a user against a court order deeming certain content was illegal was accepted by a higher court.
  • The validity period of a court order prohibiting publication of certain material expired.
  • An official judicial body expressed an opinion that a request made by an administrative authority was invalid.

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