While doing some internet-related search this evening I stumbled on the «Government Requests Reports» by Facebook. The report, as the name suggests, is a compilation of requests made by various governments around the world. The report updated in April 2016, which added requests made during the second half of 2015 does not feature Mauritius.
Though Facebook has made it transparent as to how and under what conditions they may share information with government officials during investigations, it appears that our local fellows did not grasp it. The below paragraphs are published by Facebook:
As part of official investigations, government officials sometimes request data about people who use Facebook. The vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. In many of these cases, the government is requesting basic subscriber information, such as name and length of service. Requests may also ask for IP address logs or account content.
We have strict processes in place to handle these government requests. Every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency. We require officials to provide a detailed description of the legal and factual basis for their request, and we push back when we find legal deficiencies or overly broad or vague demands for information. We frequently share only basic subscriber information.
Ironically, in 2013, members of the National Assembly put the blame of not getting information from Facebook on the non-availability of a Mutual Assistance Treaty between Mauritius and the United States of America. Below is an extract of the Q&A from the parliamentary debates of 25 June 2013.
Mr Uteem: Is the hon. Prime Minister aware that when it comes to Facebook, one of the major problems in investigation, is that there is no Mutual Assistance Treaty between Mauritius and the United States, and Facebook in the circumstances does not voluntarily disclose the name of the IP users who use this programme? So, if you do not get a confession, it is very difficult to prove an offence committed on Facebook. In the circumstances, may I ask the hon. Prime Minister to look into the matter with the Attorney General and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to a treaty with the US, which would allow us to get information from Facebook?
The Prime Minister: This is generally the case with Facebook. It is not just Mauritius, many other countries have the same problem. India recently had the same problem; I think China as well, if I am not mistaken. They do not want to sign any memorandum - I think both the then Attorney General and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have been involved in this - but they do say if there is something, they do act sometimes, I must say.
Then during the parliamentary debates on the 6th October 2015, while answering to a question by Mr P. Jhugroo, whether owners of fake profiles on social media could be identified in a timely manner, the then Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation, Mr R. Bhadain replied the following:
I am informed that procedures have been put in place for -
(i) identification of the owner of the fake profiles and postings of harmful and racist comments, and
(ii) prompt notification to CERT-MU for the removal of the harmful and racist comments.
A committee has also been set up within my Ministry with the assistance of the SLO for Mauritius to seek Mutual Legal Assistance from the State of California, so that in cases where there are harmful and illegal contents on Facebook in Mauritius, not only those contents may be deleted, but the author of those contents will also be identified and evidence could also be gathered to prosecute the author, promptly.
Mr Jhugroo further questions to clarify whether Mauritius has set an agreement with Facebook and the answer is just a mirage that “we have done nothing but we intend to re-assure you that everything is under control”.
Mr Bhadain: As I have stated, Madam Speaker, there is no agreement which has been signed, but there are initiatives which have started with the State Law Office to seek mutual legal assistance with the State of California and, therefore, we will be able to achieve the objectives which we are setting ourselves to achieve.
Meanwhile that same year while answering a Private Notice Question (PNQ), regarding unrest in the south of Mauritius, the Prime Minister replied the following (I quote an extract of the answer only):
Madam Speaker, I am further informed that on 07 September 2015, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation reported to the Police that racial comments had been posted on Facebook, which could lead to interracial problems. An enquiry was instituted immediately by the CCID to trace out the identity of the Facebook account holders and those who had commented on the post. Nine such posts have been indentified and one person has been arrested so far. He has been provisionally charged for the offence of "stirring up civil war" and remanded to Police cell. He will appear before the District Court today.
Now, among the traits seen in those answers where the CCID traces Facebook account holders, while a Mutual Assistance Treaty is missing, while the State Law Office is pondering how to seek legal assistance from the State of California, and we see no gov request from Mauritius on Facebook’s report, I wonder whether any evidence is ever produced to support the charges by the Police.
Do the CCID investigators follow IP addresses on A4 paper?