SAN FRANCISCO - Agence France-Presse
commentary remains a prime target as governments increase the number of
requests for Google to remove material from the reach of Internet users.
The Internet giant yesterday released its
fifth semi-annual Transparency Report providing insights into requests by
countries around the world to "take down" content from search results
or Google venues such as YouTube.
"Just like every other time before, we've
been asked to take down political speech," Google senior policy analyst
Dorothy Chou said.
"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
from Turkish information technologies officials centered on videos of the
founder of modern-day Turkey, and Google responded by making the targeted clips
unavailable in that country.
The number of requests from the United States doubled in the
second half of last year. Ukraine, Jordan and Bolivia showed up for the first
time on the list of countries out to have online material removed, according to
Google reported that it went along with
slightly more than half of the approximately 1,000 requests it received to
remove material or links.
The transparency report doesn't provide
insights regarding countries such as China
where tight Internet controls allow
for blocking of content, eliminating the need to ask Google to take down
From the start of July through December of
last year, Google complied with approximately 65 percent of the more that 467
court orders to remove material and with 47 percent of the more than 561
request without judicial backing.
"We noticed that government agencies from
different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our
users had posted on our services," Chou said.
Google said the number of requests has grown
steadily during the past two years.
Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270
search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing
private individuals or public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.
In Poland, a public institution asked Google
to remove links to a website criticizing it. Chou said that Google did not
comply with those requests in either country.
An electoral court order from Brazil
in Google removing four profiles from its Orkut social network for political
Broad defamation laws in Brazil
obtaining court orders to remove even truthful information from the Internet,
according to Google.
The law there also reportedly bans showing
parodies of candidates during elections, leading to requests for removal of
material such as bits by celebrity comedians.
Among the requests turned down by Google was
one from Canadian officials for the removal of a YouTube video of a Canadian
citizen peeing on his passport and flushing it down a toilet.
The number of content removal requests
received by Google in India
was 49 percent higher in the second half of last
year than in the first six months.
Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology
asked Google to remove six YouTube videos that satirized the country's military
and senior politicians. Google did not comply with that request.
oogle said it did terminate five YouTube
accounts at the behest of the United Kingdom Association of Police Officers,
which contended they promoted terrorism.
The Ministry of Information, Communication and
Technology in Thailand asked Google to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly
insulting the monarchy there. Google restricted 70 percent of the videos from
view online in Thailand.
"We realize that the numbers we share can
only provide a small window into what's happening on the Web at large,"
"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."