SAN FRANCISCO - Agence France-Presse
Politicalcommentary remains a prime target as governments increase the number ofrequests for Google to remove material from the reach of Internet users.
The Internet giant yesterday released itsfifth semi-annual Transparency Report providing insights into requests bycountries around the world to "take down" content from search resultsor Google venues such as YouTube.
"Just like every other time before, we'vebeen asked to take down political speech," Google senior policy analystDorothy Chou said.
"It's alarming not only because freeexpression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countriesyou might not suspect -- Western democracies not typically associated withcensorship."
Requestsfrom Turkish information technologies officials centered on videos of thefounder of modern-day Turkey, and Google responded by making the targeted clipsunavailable in that country.
The number of requests from the United States doubled in thesecond half of last year. Ukraine, Jordan and Bolivia showed up for the firsttime on the list of countries out to have online material removed, according toGoogle.
Google reported that it went along withslightly more than half of the approximately 1,000 requests it received toremove material or links.
The transparency report doesn't provideinsights regarding countries such as China
where tight Internet controls allowfor blocking of content, eliminating the need to ask Google to take downcontent.
From the start of July through December oflast year, Google complied with approximately 65 percent of the more that 467court orders to remove material and with 47 percent of the more than 561request without judicial backing.
"We noticed that government agencies fromdifferent countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that ourusers had posted on our services," Chou said.
Google said the number of requests has grownsteadily during the past two years.
Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencingprivate individuals or public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.
In Poland, a public institution asked Googleto remove links to a website criticizing it. Chou said that Google did notcomply with those requests in either country.
An electoral court order from Brazil
resultedin Google removing four profiles from its Orkut social network for politicalcontent.
Broad defamation laws in Brazil
allow forobtaining court orders to remove even truthful information from the Internet,according to Google. The law there also reportedly bans showingparodies of candidates during elections, leading to requests for removal ofmaterial such as bits by celebrity comedians.
Among the requests turned down by Google wasone from Canadian officials for the removal of a YouTube video of a Canadiancitizen peeing on his passport and flushing it down a toilet.
The number of content removal requestsreceived by Google in India
was 49 percent higher in the second half of lastyear than in the first six months.
Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technologyasked Google to remove six YouTube videos that satirized the country's militaryand senior politicians. Google did not comply with that request. G
oogle said it did terminate five YouTubeaccounts at the behest of the United Kingdom Association of Police Officers,which contended they promoted terrorism.
The Ministry of Information, Communication andTechnology in Thailand asked Google to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedlyinsulting the monarchy there. Google restricted 70 percent of the videos fromview online in Thailand.
"We realize that the numbers we share canonly provide a small window into what's happening on the Web at large,"Chou said. "But we do hope that by being transparentabout these government requests, we can continue to contribute to the publicdebate about how government behaviors are shaping our Web."