June 18, 2012
Google Admits To Pulling Videos From YouTube
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com
We know Google operates internationally, allowing people from all over the world to have access to some form of a wealth of information. But how do these countries and governments feel about their citizens having this kind of access?
For the past two years, Google has been issuing a “Transparency Report” detailing which governments have asked to have content removed. Some of these requests are granted, such as the removal of videos which contained threatening content towards US law enforcement, while some of these requests are reviewed and later denied. While it may be shocking to see how many countries have been asking to have political content removed, the team at Google says this is just the continuation of a troubling trend.
For instance, Google has admitted to taking down 149 videos in Thailand which allegedly insulted the local monarchy, a crime in their country. Google said they removed these videos in accordance with local law. The search giant also said they had been asked to remove a blog which allegedly personally defamed a US law official. While Google denied this request, they did comply with a request to take down 4 out of 5 YouTube accounts which allegedly contained “threatening and/or harassing content,” to the tune of nearly 300 videos.
The UK´s Association of Chief Police Officers had requested Google remove 5 YouTube accounts, claiming they promoted terrorism. Saying the videos violated community guidelines, Google terminated these accounts, resulting in the removal of 640 videos.
Google also points out, however, that while some requests are removed to comply with local law, other requests to block aspects of free speech – particularly about local government – have been denied.
In their Official Google Blog, Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou writes, “We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it´s not.”
“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.”
According to Google´s Transparency Report, Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 search results in the last half of 2011. Each of these results linked to articles and blogs which referenced “public figures,” such as mayors and public prosecutors. For instance, Poland asked Google to remove a website which criticized a public institution, a request Google denied.
Canada also issued a request, asking Google to remove a video of a man urinating on his Canadian passport and flushing it down the toilet. Google said they did not comply with this request.
All told, Google said it had received 461 court orders between June and December 2011. Combined, these court orders covered 4,925 items. Google complied with 68% of them, in addition to complying with 47% of more “informal requests.”
"We realize that the numbers we share can only provide a small window into what's happening on the Web at large," Chou said.
"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."