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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook says that its services were interrupted 84 times in 19 countries in the second half of last year, compared to 52 disruptions in eight countries that took place during the first half of the year. That's a symptom of a growing trend among countries to restrict access to social media and the open internet.

Why it matters: Government censorship, whether through complete blackouts or laws limiting certain types of content, is a growing threat to the notion of the internet as an open global network.

Details: During the last six months of 2020, Facebook also said government requests for user data increased 10% from 173,592 to 191,013. The company says it continues to scrutinize all government requests for any user data.

  • Of the total volume, the U.S. continues to submit the largest number of requests, followed by India, Germany, France, Brazil and the U.K.
  • Similarly, from the first half of 2020 to the second, the number of times Facebook had to restrict access to content based on local law increased 93% globally, from 22,120 to 42,606. Those increases, Facebook says, were driven mainly by increases in requests from the U.K., Turkey and Brazil.

The big picture: The COVID-19 pandemic saw a surge in local law enforcement agencies cracking down on content that they argued was tied to misinformation that could impact public safety.

  • Free speech critics argue that many of these laws are used to silence dissenters. An Axios report earlier this year also shows that internet blackouts have skyrocketed globally amid political unrest.

Separately: Facebook also noted that the amount of content it removed from organized hate groups surpassed the amount it removed from terrorist organizations. As Protocol notes, that's the first time that's happened since Facebook began reporting such stats in late 2017.

Meanwhile: Twitter posted a blog acknowledging that following an investigation, it determined the tool that automatically cropped images on the site contained bias that favored white people and women.

Go deeper

May 20, 2021 - Economy & Business

Businesses under more pressure to save society

Expand chart
Data: Edelman Trust Barometer; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

People expect corporations and CEOs to continue addressing the most pressing social and political issues even after the pandemic is over, according to new data.

Why it matters: While this provides opportunities for some companies to grow, it also puts more pressure on CEOs and business leaders to address more than just shareholder returns.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

NTSB probes crash that killed 10 in Alabama as storm lashes Southeast

Flash-flooding in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's investigating a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash in Alabama that killed 10 people, including nine children, as storms swept the Southeast.

The big picture: Saturday's crash on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes" over the weekend, per AP.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.