Google Transparency Report Shows Increase In Government Removal Requests
April 25, 2013

Google Transparency Report Shows Increase In Government Removal Requests

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

Google released its Transparency Report for the last six months of 2012 this week. The report shows an increase in requests from governments to remove content, much of it videos on YouTube. Google's legal director Susan Infantino went over the highlights of the report in a post on the company's official blog.

From July to December 2012, Google received 2,285 government requests to remove 24,179 pieces of content. That's up from 1,811 requests to remove 18,070 pieces of content the search giant received in the first six months of last year.

"As we've gathered and released more data over time, it's become increasingly clear that the scope of government attempts to censor content on Google services has grown. In more places than ever, we've been asked by governments to remove political content that people post on our services. In this particular time period, we received court orders in several countries to remove blog posts criticizing government officials or their associates," the post said.

Brazil was one of the governments where there was an increase in removal requests. Google received 697 requests from Brazil. Of those, 640 were court orders. While many of these were likely submitted in groups, Infantino estimates Google received an average of 3.5 court orders per day during this time period from Brazil alone. Brazil submitted 191 requests in the first half of 2012, far fewer submissions.

One reason for the increase in requests from Brazil was the municipal elections that took place in the fall. There were 316 requests that called for the removal of 756 pieces of content relating to alleged violations of the Brazilian Electoral Code. The code forbids defamation and commentary that offends candidates. That means just about any video, photo, image or post relating to the elections had the potential to fall under this code.

"We´re appealing many of these cases, on the basis that the content is protected by freedom of expression under the Brazilian Constitution," Infantino said in her post.

Russia also increased its number of requests for content removal. In that case, a new law took effect last fall. Removal requests increased from six requests in the first six months of 2012 to 114 requests to remove content. Of those requests, 107 were due to the new law. The law is intended to protect minors from seeing content (and websites with content) that feature sexual abuse of children, details on how to commit suicide, or  would encourage users to take drugs. It also works to block sites that solicit children for pornography. BBC News reported on the new law last October.

A look at the categories removal requests fall under shows the majority fall under defamation. Privacy and security are the second-highest category, followed by electoral law.

During the second half of 2012, Google received inquiries from 20 countries regarding YouTube videos that contained clips of the movie Innocence of Muslims. Australia was among those countries. Other countries objecting to the material include Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei, Djibouti, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Maldives, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. Australia, Egypt and the US requested Google review the videos and determine if they violated the Community Guidelines. Google found the videos did not violate the guidelines. Ultimately, Google restricted videos from view in Indonesia, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Videos were temporarily restricted from view in Egypt and Libya.