Automattic was created to bring WordPress’ open source publishing software to people on a larger scale. The company shares WordPress’ mission to democratize publishing. As part of that mission, Automattic published a transparency report, which outlines the number of information requests, takedown demands, and national security requests it has received.
The Transparency Report is located on a new site which helps users to navigate what will likely become a large archive of information, as Automattic plans to publish a new report every six months. This report will keep users informed about which governments are making requests and policies for responding to them.
Writing on behalf of Automattic, Jenny Zhu summarized the company’s policy regarding information requests:
Our policy is to notify you of any information request we receive regarding your account, so that you may challenge the request. The only exception is if we are prohibited by law (not just asked nicely by the police) from making such a notification.
Automattic is Committed to Actively Pushing Back Against Requests That Violate Freedom of Speech
Historically, Automattic has demonstrated its support for freedom of speech by raising awareness about the First Amendment, even taking to the courts to stand with users against DMCA abuse. The company also recently joined forces with other organizations around the globe to protest NSA surveillance.
Through its statement today, Automattic emphasized that it will push back against requests that constitute infringements on freedom of speech:
We also carefully review all legal requests we receive and actively push back on those that are procedurally deficient, overly-broad, or otherwise improper (i.e., those that target non-criminal free speech).
The US Government Represents 60% of the Information Requests
Russia, not known for its support of free press, leads the way in takedown demands with 88% of the total requests received by WordPress.com. The United States, however, far and away leads in the number of user information requests from governments and law enforcement agencies from July 1 – December 31, 2013.
While most of the countries listed have submitted a handful of requests, the US government sent 20 requests, specifying 29 different sites. In 60% of those requests, some or all information was produced. The requests shown here do not include those related to litigation and civil proceedings.
Automattic specifies that the company will only turn over private user information upon receipt of valid US legal process. Requests that originate from outside the US are required to be served through a US court or enforcement agency.
The company is not permitted to disclose very much regarding national security requests, despite wishing they could:
Finally, we’re reporting the maximum amount of information allowed by law about the number and type(s) of National Security Requests that we received. The disclosures we’re currently allowed to make are limited, and unfortunately, we’re not permitted to paint a more truthful picture.
The Transparency Report makes it clear that Automattic will not tolerate censorship of its users and is committed to disclosing as much information related to government requests as they are permitted. Many governments are ruthless about extracting information from citizens, even when it comes at the expense of the people they serve. Given that the United States leads the pack in information requests, it’s reassuring to know that WordPress.com, one of the most highly trafficked sites in the US and around the globe, is committed to standing against any request that violates users’ freedom of speech.