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Government Censor Requests Are Alarming, Says Google

By - Source: Google | B 26 comments

The number of take-down requests from governments worldwide is "alarming."

On Monday Google said that it has released data showing government requests to remove blog posts and videos, and requests to hand over user information made from July to December 2011. The info, according to Google, is alarming.

Unlike the traffic and copyright sections of its Transparency Report which are refreshed in near-real time, the government's section is only updated in six-month increments because "it's a people-driven manual process." However this latest release raises some concerns by Google.

"This is the fifth data set that we’ve released," the company said. "And just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect -- Western democracies not typically associated with censorship."

Google started releasing government-related data in 2010, adding annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. Since the beginning, Google has noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask Google to remove political content that users had posted on its services. There was hope that the request trend was merely a temporary deviation from the norm, but five data sets later, Google realizes it's not.

"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," Google said. "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."

According to Google's chart, the company has received 128 court orders from Brazil in the six month period between July and December 2011. The government requested that 397 items be removed, but Google only complied with 69-percent. Other informal requests from executives, police and so on totaled 66 in the same time period, asking for 157 items to be taken down -- Google only complied with 26-percent.

Second on Google's government request list is the United States. Google received 117 court orders requesting that 3,851 items be removed. Additional informal requests from police and other parties totaled a mere 70, asking for the removal of 2,341 items. Google complied with 40-percent and 44-percent of the requested items respectively.

Rounding out Google's top 10 government request list is Germany, Argentine, Turkey, Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

"Governments ask companies to remove content for many different reasons," Google said. "For example, some content removals are requested due to allegations of defamation, while others are due to allegations that the content violates local laws prohibiting hate speech or pornography. Laws surrounding these issues vary by country, and the requests reflect the legal context of a given jurisdiction."

For the six months of data Google released on Monday, the search engine giant complied with an average of 65-percent of court orders, as opposed to 47-percent of more informal requests, the company said.

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Top Comments
  • 17 Hide
    mayne92 , June 19, 2012 2:11 AM
    This is not surprising.
  • 13 Hide
    raven2510 , June 19, 2012 2:14 AM
    Not surprised. They don't want us to know whats really going on.
  • 13 Hide
    A Bad Day , June 19, 2012 2:54 AM
    K2N haterFurther details would be nice. I have a feeling most of the requests are related to illegal content rather than politically offensive. In Brazil there's a Commission in Senate against child exploitation and they do block access to certain sites/networks. Guess removing them from the search engine is part of the job.


    Media hype:

    WikiLEAK: OMFG, WTF

    Child exploitation and other stuff: Meh


    Which situation do you think a typical government would sweat more?
Other Comments
  • 17 Hide
    mayne92 , June 19, 2012 2:11 AM
    This is not surprising.
  • 13 Hide
    raven2510 , June 19, 2012 2:14 AM
    Not surprised. They don't want us to know whats really going on.
  • 5 Hide
    K2N hater , June 19, 2012 2:29 AM
    Further details would be nice. I have a feeling most of the requests are related to illegal content rather than politically offensive. In Brazil there's a Commission in Senate against child exploitation and they do block access to certain sites/networks. Guess removing them from the search engine is part of the job.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 19, 2012 2:40 AM
    .. they don't take down known hackers nor phishermen ...
  • 13 Hide
    A Bad Day , June 19, 2012 2:54 AM
    K2N haterFurther details would be nice. I have a feeling most of the requests are related to illegal content rather than politically offensive. In Brazil there's a Commission in Senate against child exploitation and they do block access to certain sites/networks. Guess removing them from the search engine is part of the job.


    Media hype:

    WikiLEAK: OMFG, WTF

    Child exploitation and other stuff: Meh


    Which situation do you think a typical government would sweat more?
  • 12 Hide
    pal13x , June 19, 2012 2:55 AM
    @K2N hater: I did my homework and went and looked at the google report.

    If you look at the report, you will see that in every case where children or hate speech is involved, google complied with the request.

    Now, this one was funny:
    "Canada - We received a request from the Passport Canada office to remove a YouTube video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet. We did not comply with this request."

    As a Canadian expatriate, I am glad to see that google is defending the right of my countrymen to protest in this naturalistic way.
  • 7 Hide
    lashabane , June 19, 2012 4:37 AM
    Kami3kSigh, nutters.

    You can keep saying that until your government kicks down your door for saying "nutters".
  • 8 Hide
    cumi2k4 , June 19, 2012 5:29 AM
    /Chirping what other site poster here:

    Google should create a website of those denied takedowns, let the world see what our government are trying to hide....
  • 2 Hide
    Raid3r , June 19, 2012 6:16 AM
    I don't agree, you censor one thing and it just creeks the door closed more and more. People don't have to do anything on the net, they chooooose to do it. These take downs are nefarious and a stain on the internet.
  • 2 Hide
    nigelren , June 19, 2012 7:38 AM
    It's a difficult balance - I agree with freedom of speech and how people should be able to do or say as they want, BUT who says that Google isn't becoming a law unto itself - who monitors what Google does.
    After the 'we didn't intentionally capture peoples data' crap they gave over Google maps, does Google have the credibility to say what should and shouldn't be done.
    You never know - has Google given you the full details?
  • 2 Hide
    Sunius , June 19, 2012 10:12 AM
    I hope google doesn't give up - after all, it's doing its job as a search engine.
  • 3 Hide
    nebun , June 19, 2012 10:34 AM
    phuck the us government
  • 1 Hide
    rantoc , June 19, 2012 10:52 AM
    UK gov on that list.. hardly surprising. "England Prevails "- V for Vandetta soon with a camera up your arse!
  • 0 Hide
    devBunny , June 19, 2012 11:39 AM
    raven2510Not surprised. They don't want us to know whats really going on.


    As a statement of the bleedin' obvious, that is, of course, true. By definition, someone who asks for something to be made less available is not wanting people to see it.

    As a statement of the conspiratorial it's a big fail.

    "Second on Google's government request list is the United States. Google received 117 court orders"

    "They" - that nebulous conglomerate made up of many individual entities which, and who, are far more likely to be acting in their own interests than as one - issued fewer than one court order every day. Is that really sufficient repression for anyone who "doesn't want us to know what's really going on"? I think not.
  • 2 Hide
    faster23rd , June 19, 2012 12:35 PM
    I have a feeling that the Internet will soon loose the last bits of the freedom it has. We might have to wave farewell to Internet privacy and anonymity all because we have abused our freedom and ran irresponsibly wild. The government and its cronies might take away piracy, commercialize the Internet, or worse. I still will dearly fight for three things on the Internet: 1. UNHINDERED FLOW OF INFORMATION, 2. PRIVACY, 3. PORN
  • 0 Hide
    happyballz , June 19, 2012 1:36 PM
    It should says "democracies" ... because real democracy was lost long time ago, at best we have simulation of democratic elements- even those are not fully implemented most of the time.

    They are probably just testing the waters with small amount of take-down requests... this could get much more worse if they feel like we don't make an outrage about it.
  • -1 Hide
    freggo , June 19, 2012 2:44 PM
    While it is something to take not off, it seems a relatively small amount in light of the vast amount of data and info published in Google's Search monster.
  • 0 Hide
    freggo , June 19, 2012 2:49 PM
    cumi2k4/Chirping what other site poster here:Google should create a website of those denied takedowns, let the world see what our government are trying to hide....


    Great idea!
    And who knows, it may well be that a demand from some 2nd rate politician or judge with be overturned by his own peers as a result.

    Of course how do you deal with a request to remove something from the TakeDown list? :-)

  • 0 Hide
    Markon101 , June 19, 2012 2:49 PM
    Stupid governments meddling in our internet.
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