Google’s Latest Transparency Report Says Gov’t Data Removal Requests Down

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SHAFAQNA – Google’s latest transparency report shows governments made fewer content removal requests in the second half of 2013, although the total number of requests made for the entire year is still significantly higher than the requests made in 2012.

(Photo : Nan Palmero)

Google has unveiled its ninth transparency report, which shows a slight decline in government requests to have information removed from Google’s websites in the last period.

A total of 3,105 requests to take down 14,637 pieces of information have been made from governments around the world during the second half of 2013, Google said.

The number is slightly down from the 3,846 requests made from January to June of the same year, an all-time high for Google, which points to the huge “spike” in requests from Turkey during that period presumably due to the political unrest in the region.

Still, the number of removal requests has been steadily on the rise on a yearly basis, with 2013 seeing a total of 6,951 requests for the entire year. This is 60 percent more than the 4,100 requests made by governments in 2012.

While Turkey has since simmered down, Google reported that Russia has seen a 25 percent increase in removal requests, while the Thai and Italian governments also made more requests than in previous years.

Majority of the requests, or some 38 percent, were made for content allegedly defaming their subjects, while another 16 percent of the requests were made citing nudity and obscenity. Some 11 percent of the requests were for violations against someone’s privacy and security.

Meanwhile, 1,066 removal requests were made for posts made on Blogger, while 841 were for links posted on Google’s search engine. Seven hundred sixty-five requests were for YouTube videos.

Not all requests were honored by Google, the report said. For instance, Google said it received a request from a member of the Royal Thai Parliament to delete a search result pointing to a news story allegedly defaming the Parliament member, but it did not comply with the request due to reasons of public interest.

Geography and culture also came into play as Google considered what types of content to restrict from its websites.

The Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications in Russia posted a removal request for a Blogger post with only the text “Got chocolate?” Google complied because “chocolate” in Russia could also refer to a recreational drug and the post violated a law that aims to protect children from information that could be harmful to their health and development.

For the first time, Google also received a takedown request from the government of Kosovo for a YouTube video showing two minors fighting. Google said it had already removed the video before it received the request because the video did not conform to YouTube’s community guidelines.

In the U.S., Google refused to comply with a request by a CEO of a credit company accompanied by a third-party court order to remove 333 search results for articles that suggest that he is engaging in fraud because “the court order was irrelevant to the content in question.”

“Our transparency report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online,” said Trevor Callaghan, legal director at Google. “However, it does provide a lens on the things that governments and courts ask us to remove, underscoring the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests.”

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