What Is A Transparency Report?

A transparency report is a public communication document released by an internet company that discloses key metrics and information about digital governance and enforcement measures on its platform(s). Transparency reports are usually released on recurring basis, and may include metrics and information on issues such as:

  • Legal information requests received from law enforcement, government agencies, and other third parties. These requests typically ask for disclosure of users’ private data.
  • Content and platform enforcement measures, which may be based on:
    • Company guidelines and terms of service.
    • Intellectual property laws in areas such as copyright, trademark, and counterfeit.
    • Local laws and regulations requiring content takedown (i.e., Network Enforcement Law in Germany).

Depending on a company’s size, maturity, and overall approach to trust and safety, their transparency reports will include different types of information. The most basic form of transparency reporting contains  metrics on the legal requests a company received over a specific period of time; this is the sort of report a company might produce if they are just getting started or if they already make their content moderation decisions available to the public by default (e.g., Wikipedia). For a company that operates at a very large, global scale (e.g., Facebook, Twitter), a transparency report also serves as a summary of all the recent enforcement actions—not just legal requests—the company has handled. If a company has multiple products, their report may segment the data by the associated product. For example, some of Facebook’s transparency reports show data about Instagram and the Facebook app separately.

Transparency reporting can be important for building trust and establishing a reputation for openness with the public. It can also be important to advertisers and other business partners, who often use transparency reports as an overview of a company’s approach to brand safety (though this is not usually their intended function). While most transparency reports are voluntary, certain forms of reporting may soon be legally mandatory in many countries. To date, there are no formalized standards for the frequency of reporting, but transparency reports are typically released in six- or twelve-month intervals. Therefore, planning for transparency reporting should be an important consideration when developing trust and safety tools and operations.