Google’s latest data shows the number of requests from governments to remove content from its services is higher than ever before.
The ‘Transparency Report’ was started three years ago, and since then Google has been making public the scale and scope of government requests for censorship around the world.
The latest figures show that between July and December 2012 it received 2,285 government requests for the removal of 24,179 pieces of content. It was a drastic increase from the first half the year when 1,811 requests for the removal of 18,070 pieces of content were received.
The subject of the content requested for removal varies widely but the most cited reason is ‘defamation’. On Google’s public policy blog it says “In more places than ever, we’ve been asked by governments to remove political content that people post on our services. In this particular time period, we received court orders in several countries to remove blog posts criticizing government officials or their associates.” Other grounds include privacy and security breaches, copyright violation, hate speech, violence and other adult content.
Google by no means agrees to all the submissions, if the request is written informally from a government agency they usually refuse it and let a court decide. From time to time they have even received fake court orders that threaten the company with legal action if certain blog posts are not removed.
The data highlights the significant rise in requests from Brazil and Russia. In Brazil 697 requests were put forward in the 6 month period. The reason for the rise was largely due to the municipal elections that took place last year, with half of the total relating to the removal of alleged violations of the Brazilian Electoral Code which forbids the defamation of candidates.
In Russia, a new law that allows the government to ‘blacklist’ sites and take them offline without a trial came into effect; the law aims to protect children from harmful content. The Transparency Report shows that requests from Russia grew from a peak of 6 in the first half of the year to 114 in the most recent period, with all but 7 citing the new law. The majority of the requests were related to suicide promotion and drug abuse.
The online video known as ‘The Innocence of Muslims’ also kicked up a storm of requests. Google reported receiving inquiries from 20 different countries regarding the clip. Google concluded that the video was within the community guidelines but chose to restrict it from view in several countries in accordance with local laws.
The ‘Top 5’ countries, ordered by volume of requests are Brazil, The United States, Germany, India, and Turkey. To find out how an individudal country fares in the censorship chart read more of the report that breaks down individual countries’ submissions.