Google might have complied with some governments’ requests to remove content, but the subject matter of those censored pieces has been revealed in the company’s latest transparency report. Also included in the report were demands from countries to turn over information about Google users.
The U.S. government is at the head of the pack of governments trying to get user info, with 6,321 requests with Google for user data during the final six months of the year, reports the San Francisco Register. That was more than any other country.
Our government agencies also submitted 187 requests to remove content from July through December last year, which was a heck of a lot more than the 92 requests between January and June. Brazil topped that with 194 requests during the final half of the year, and 224 in the first part.
Beyond what kind of content was terminated, some of the most interesting data includes what wasn’t taken down, despite government requests. For example — Google said it shut down five accounts linked to about 640 videos from YouTube that allegedly promoted terrorism in the second half of the year, after the United Kingdom complained, says BBC News.
But no dice for Canada’s Passport Office, which was denied when it asked for a video to be taken down, where a citizen urinated on a passport and then flushed it down the toilet. In Pakistan, officials wanted six YouTube videos satirizing the army and politicians to be removed, but Google refused that request as well.
Other cases did result in takedowns, many of which were due to content violating laws in those countries (such as insulting the monarchy in Thailand), or videos with hate speech.
Google said it had received 461 court orders, encompassing 6,989 items in the second part of last year, and that it complied with 68% of those. Informal requests totaled 546 cases with 4,925 pieces of content, and 43% of those were removed.
Many of these requests were linked to political speech, something that alarmed Google.
“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,” said Google’s senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou.