The latest dataset from Google’s transparency report shows a dramatic rise in the number of takedown requests from governments, including democratic governments not typically associated with censorship.
Content removal requests are made on a variety of grounds from allegations of defamation to violation of local hate speech laws, though Google notes on its blog that many takedown requests target political content. In the second half of 2011, there were 1,028 takedown requests from governments worldwide for about 12,000 items.
Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst at Google, writes on the company’s official blog that Google has noted an upward trend in the number of requests targeting political content, which she characterizes as “alarming.”
For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn’t comply with either of these requests.
The Polish government agency cited in Chou’s post denied on Monday that it had requested a takedown. Rather, the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development said it asked Google to lower a website’s prominence on its search-results page, accusing the website, which is critical of the agency’s policies, of using Googlebombs to get higher placement.
Politico noted that Google received 187 requests from the U.S. government between July and December 2011, more than double the 92 requests in the first half of 2011. Moreover, the number of items that the U.S. government asked to be removed jumped exponentially from 757 to 6,192 in that same time period.
This dataset delineates content removal requests submitted via court orders and other types of requests from government agencies. Google reported that it complied with 65 percent of court orders compared to 47 percent of other types of requests.
The Indian government made the largest number of non-court order requests, making 96 requests through its agencies, though Google complied with fewer than one-third of those. The raw data for India show requests to remove content from YouTube and orkut for defamation, hate speech and religious offense. India and the United States were also the two top requesters of user data from Google.