A government sees a website critical of local law enforcement, and tries to censor that site by asking Google to remove it. What country comes to mind? Is it Iran? China? North Korea?
The correct answer is....
The United States.
It may not surprise some people, but for most, when they think of countries that heavily censor their citizens, it is not often that countries like France, England or Spain that come to mind. Many people simply do not also realize that many most Western countries, including Canada, Germany, and even the United States make hundreds, if not thousands, of requests for Google to remove content every year
But the amount of requests for removal of content, and for access to user data, by Western countries are becoming larger by the year.
The amount of requests to remove search results has become so prevalent that it is becoming “troubling” and “alarming” Dorothy Chou, Senior Policy Analyst at Google, wrote in a blog post on Sunday.
“This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. 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.”
When the data is broken down, many countries either request, or demand, that websites and content be removed that is critical of the government, even in countries that have democratic elections.
In the second half of last year along, Chou write, Spain requested that Google removed 270 “ search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.” At the same time a public institution in Poland sent a request that Google remove links to a website that was being critical of the institution.
Chou says Google did not submit to these demands.
A German court demanded the removal of nearly 900 searches that “linked to forums and blogs containing statements about a government agency and one of its employees that the court determined were not credible.”
The United States, meanwhile, saw a 103% increase in the number of requests to remove content, including 1,400 YouTube videos that were allegedly harassing local law enforcement, which Google refused to comply with.
Requests for user data
The U.S. also requested 6,321 pieces of user data, by far the most of any country, to which they were supplied 93% of the requests by Google, the most of any country. Second to them was Brazil, who had 90% of their 1,615 requests for user data complied with.
India had the second most requests, with 2,207, but Google only gave them 66% of what they asked for. Other countries with over 1,000 requests were Great Britain, Germany and France.
In all, over 18,000 requests for user data were made from July to December 2011.
“We realize that the numbers we share can only provide a small window into what’s happening on the web at large,” Chou wrote.
“But we do hope that by being transparent about these government requests, we can continue to contribute to the public debate about how government behaviors are shaping our web.”
(Image source: digitaltrends.com)