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Facebook law enforcement takedowns quadrupled in six months because of a school shooting video

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Facebook today released its transparency report for the first half of 2017, in a regular disclosure from the company that provides data on when Facebook complies with legal requests.

At a glance, there are some small shifts. The company notes that requests for data on accounts was up 21 percent. Thanks to recent legislation, the company is also now able to disclose the existence of five national security letters, a notorious tool used by US law enforcement to quietly obtain information on individuals. For the first time, the company says, it’s also releasing information on requests related to intellectual property.

But one eye-popping statistic from the report stands out. According to Facebook, the company restricted video of a school shooting in Mexico 20,506 times after receiving a request from Mexican law enforcement. In context, that number is massive: the company only restricted content for violating local law a total of about 28,000 times, meaning the video accounted for 72 percent of restrictions in the first half of 2017. In the second half of 2016, by contrast, the company only restricted content about 7,000 times — meaning takedown requests quadrupled in the category. In Mexico, during that same 2016 period, Facebook agreed to restrict content only 25 times.

The video showed the January shooting at a private school in the city of Monterrey, where a 15-year-old student shot and injured four others before killing himself. Facebook did not disclose details of the video, but at the time, reports indicated that a surveillance video of the shooting was circulating on social media.