Google: U.S. censorship requests doubled in last half of 2011


Google said U.S. requests for censorship doubled in the past six months. (Joerg Sarbach/dapd/Associated Press)
June 18, 2012

Google on Sunday released its regular report of censorship requests it receives from governments around the world with warning words.

“When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers,” wrote Google Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou in a company blog Sunday.

Chou wrote that she was alarmed by the number of requests to take down political speech, and the number of requests Google’s had from “Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”

Case in point: the United States, which reportedly increased its requests by 103 percent in the past six months.

According to Google’s report, takedown requests from the United States included those for the termination or removal of five YouTube accounts, 1,400 YouTube videos, 218 search results and a blog that allegedly “defamed a law enforcement official in a personal capacity.”

The report indicates that Google declined to comply to take down the blog post, the videos or the majority of the search results. The company did remove four YouTube accounts, which had around 300 videos, and 25 percent of the search requests.

The company said, overall, it has complied with an average of 65 percent of court orders and 47 percent of “more informal” requests in the six months detailed in Sunday’s data.

The past six months also saw a 49 percent increase in requests from the Indian government, as well as first-time requests from four countries: Bolivia, the Czech Republic, Jordan and Ukraine.

Google offered detailed looks at some, though not most, of the requests. For example, the company said it did not comply with a Canadian request to remove a “YouTube video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet.” A British request to remove 640 videos from five user accounts that allegedly support terrorism was honored after Google found that those users had violated its community guidelines. In other cases, the company removed content to comply with court orders or to abide by local laws.

As CNET noted, the list doesn’t include any censorship from countries that don’t bother with requests to censor Google’s information, such as China or Iran. They censor the information themselves.

More technology news:

Google, Amazon lead rush for new Web domain suffixes in bids to ICANN

Facebook CTO Bret Taylor leaving for start-up

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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