The number of users blocked by Welsh Government, and Welsh Government Ministerial Twitter accounts.
11 February 2022
Freedom of Information Requests – Welsh Government Twitter Account.
Thank you for your recent requests for information.
The guidelines & procedure for blocking people from their own Government's Twitter account please? I'd also like to see redacted copies of the tweets which have resulted in accounts being blocked by you.
Information on the guidelines and procedure for blocking people is exempt under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) - Information accessible to applicant by other means. The information requested can be found here:
With regard to copies of the tweets, whilst I can confirm Welsh Government holds this information, I have concluded the information is exempt under Section 40(2) of the FOIA – Personal data. An explanation of our application of this exemption is at Annex 1.
How many Twitter accounts have been blocked by the Welsh Government Twitter account (@WelshGovernment) and also by each Government Minister & Deputy Minister's Twitter account?
The following list shows the number of users blocked by Welsh Government, and Welsh Government Ministerial Twitter accounts;
- @WelshGovernment 57
- @LlywodraethCym 2
- @PrifWeinidog 10
- @Addysg_Cymraeg 3
- @Counselgenwales 0
If you are dissatisfied with the Welsh Government’s handling of your request, you can ask for an internal review within 40 working days of the date of this response. Requests for an internal review should be addressed to the Welsh Government’s Freedom of Information Officer at:
Information Rights Unit
or e-mail: Freedom.email@example.com
Please remember to quote the ATISN reference number above.
You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
However, please note that the Commissioner will not normally investigate a complaint until it has been through our own internal review process.
Whilst the information we hold under ATISN 15962 is considered exempt, I have set out below some examples of content of posts that have broken our house rules and resulted in a user being blocked;
• Containing threats of violence;
• Offensive comparisons with Nazi Germany and the holocaust;
• Sharing dangerous misinformation regarding vaccination;
• Repeated abusive and offensive language;
• Threatening or intimidating other users or guest contributors.
Section 40(2)– Personal Data
Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), together with the conditions in section 40(3)(a)(i) or 40(3)(b), provides an absolute exemption if disclosure of the personal data would breach any of the data protection principles.
‘Personal data’ is defined in sections 3(2) and (3) of the Data Protection Act 2018 (‘the DPA 2018’) and means any information relating to an identified or identifiable living individual. An identifiable living individual is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of the individual. Welsh Government believes that even with the user names redacted, the content of the tweets could still lead to an individual being identified and, in this context, would reveal that the individual had been blocked by Welsh Government for posting inappropriate content.
Under Section 40(2) of the FOIA, personal data is exempt from release if disclosure would breach one of the data protection principles set out in Article 5 of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR). We consider the principle being most relevant in this instance as being the first. This states that personal data must be:
“processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to the data subject”
The lawful basis that is most relevant in relation to a request for information under the FOIA is Article 6(1)(f). This states:
“processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data, in particular where the data subject is a child”.
In considering the application of Article 6(1)(f) in the context of a request for information under FOIA it is necessary to consider the following three-part test:
- The Legitimate interest test: Whether a legitimate interest is being pursued in the request for information;
- The Necessity test: Whether disclosure of the information/confirmation or denial that it is held is necessary to meet the legitimate interest in question;
- The Balancing test: Whether the above interests override the interests, fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject.
Our consideration of these tests is set out below:
1. Legitimate Interest Test
Requests under the FOIA are handled as both applicant and purpose blind. To that end, the Welsh Government recognises the general public interest in openness and transparency that release of this information would engender. We do not believe, however, there is any legitimate reason why the identity of the owners of accounts blocked by the Welsh Government would need to be revealed where a decision has been made to remove them from the public domain in line with Welsh Government’s social media guidelines. We do not believe the authors would have any reasonable expectation that their identity would be revealed in this context.
2. Is disclosure necessary?
The Welsh Government is of the view that it is not necessary to disclose the personal information caught by your request. We believe the legitimate interest in understanding the nature of the correspondence that has led to users being blocked is satisfied by the release of a summary of the content of that information in the main response.
3. The Balancing Test
As it has been concluded it is not necessary to disclose the personal information caught by the request, there is no requirement to balance the rights and interests of those individuals against the rights, under FOIA, of the requester.
To conclude, as release of the information would not be legitimate under Article 6(1)(f), and as no other condition of Article 6 is deemed to apply, release of the information would not be lawful within the meaning of the first data protection principle. It has therefore been withheld under section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act. Section 40 is an absolute exemption and not subject to the public interest test.