Turkey tops Google content removal request list

Turkey tops Google content removal request list

Turkey tops Google content removal request list

The Turkish government has made 1,673 requests to Google for the removal of over 12,000 items. DAILY NEWS photo

Government requests to remove content from Google continued to rise in the first half of this year, the company’s transparency report shows. Turkey tops the list with an approximately tenfold increase in requests over the second half of the year.

In an update to its “Transparency Report,” Google said it saw a 68 percent jump in requests in the second half of the year, compared to the prior six-month period, led by marked increases from Turkey and Russia. Turkey’s requests saw a record 966 percent increase compared to the previous reporting period, according to the report.

The Turkish government has made 1,673 requests to Google for the removal of over 12,000 items, including search links relating to political officials and sex scandals, which the company refused to remove, according to Google’s report.

Requests were also made on a variety of other subjects, including a blog containing information about Kurdish activists who had profile pictures displaying maps that depicted the geographical area of Kurdistan. The company did not remove those requested pages either, the report stated.

A number of requests involved the removal of private e-mail addresses, phone numbers, bank account information and identification numbers for several government officials, and Google reported that it approved these requests.

The United States followed Turkey on the list with 545 requests for removal, and Brazil came third with over 300 requests. Russia had 257 reported, with an increase of 125 percent, and India submitted 163 requests.

The majority of removal requests were based on defamation, the report added, with privacy and security the next most frequently used reasons for a request. Adult content, electoral laws and government criticism are also common reasons cited by governments when requesting the removal of content, with blogs and YouTube frequently targeted by governments in this regard.

From January to June 2013, Google said it had received 3,846 government requests to remove 24,737 pieces of content.

The updated report “is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online [but] it does demonstrate a worrying upward trend in the number of government requests, and underscores the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests,” said Google legal director Susan Infantino in a blog post.

“As we continue to add data, we hope it will become increasingly useful and informative in policy debates and decisions around the world,” the post added.

“Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content,” Infantino was also quoted as saying, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Judges have asked us to remove information that’s critical of them, police departments want us to take down videos or blogs that shine a [negative] light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don’t want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes,” she said. 

Infantino said officials “often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services.” For example, Google received a request from Argentina to remove an “autocomplete” search entry linking a politician’s name to an illicit drug, deciding to deny the request.

In Greek Cyprus, Google received a request to remove the names of disputed territories in a map, but also decided to deny the request.

Overall, Google said it removed content in 36 percent of cases, with 54 percent of these in response to court orders.