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It's Scary How Rapidly Government Requests For Info And Censorship Are Increasing

from the wake-up-people dept

Google's latest transparency report is out and the notable bit of info is that governments continue to increase how often they're seeking info about users. The increase there is a steady growth which is immensely worrisome. There's also an equally troubling increase in the attempts to censor content via Google, though in that case, it was relatively flat until the first half of this year when it shot way, way up.


Digging deeper into the data, it's not surprising to see the US top the list (by a wide margin) of governments seeking info from Google. Frankly nothing on that list is all that surprising. Looking at their annotations on takedown requests, it once again seems to show the incredibly thin-skinned nature of those in power, who then seek to abuse that power to censor information that makes them look bad. Just a couple of examples:
We received a request from the office of a local mayor to remove five blogs for criticizing the mayor. We did not remove content in response to this request.

We received a request from legal representatives of a member of the executive branch to remove 10 YouTube videos for alleged defamation. We did not remove content in response to this request.
There are a lot more like that, mostly from countries that have less respect for free speech than the US. However, some of the requests in the US are equally troubling:
We received five requests and one court order to remove seven YouTube videos for criticizing local and state government agencies, law enforcement or public officials. We did not remove content in response to these requests.
This one is concerning. What court ordered a takedown of a YouTube video criticizing local government officials? That seems like it should be public info.

Google also admits to taking down info pursuant to a court order concerning defamatory content, though at least some courts have argued that, thanks to Section 230, sites do not have to remove content, even if it's judged to be defamatory. Still, it's reasonable for Google to decide, as a matter of policy, that if a court finds content defamatory, and a proper court order is issued, that it will remove that content.

Interesting information, if still troubling, given the general trends.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 3:55am

    Governments know that people are becoming more and more disillusioned with the status quo. People can plainly see how corrupt politics is and the elitist out of touch politicians want to stop the flow of information that shows how true this is.

    Thankfully, that is a losing fight but the more governments spy on their citizens, the more people distrust their elected officials and the more people will feel oppressed. That only leads down one path. Revolution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 4:30am

    It might be advantageous to debunk said criticism rather than censor it ... unless it's true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    yaga (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 4:44am

    Compliance

    While Mike noted a few instances that Google did not comply with the requests, if you take a look at the numbers they did comply with 90% of the requests either in fully or partially. That's a total of about 7200 of the approximately 7900 requests, and the number of users/accounts those requests encompassed was 16,281. I wonder how many of those are suspected terrorists and/or criminals and how many are requests to stifle speech.

     

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  4.  
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    vegetaman (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 4:58am

    Maybe we can get a logo "this video has been US government approved" or "personally sanitized by the great city of ".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 5:11am

    Google's "transparency" is fake.

    Behind the scenes, its estimated 900,000 servers are working on tracking your every move on the web, and that's all available to the national security state -- besides the commercial pests pitching crap for you to buy.

    And again, these statements by fascist Senator Lieberman show Google's real purposes and the uses he wants to make of it:
    http://www.activistpost.com/2011/11/senator-lieberman-urges-google-to.html

     

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  6.  
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    The Real Michael, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 5:20am

    Re:

    They certainly try, usually via ad hominem attacks and deriding their critics as loony conspiracy nutjobs, via their stooges, err, constituents in major media outlets, yet they fail. The reason they fail is multifold: people are turning away from major media and looking into alternatives, doing their own investigating and exposing all sorts of abuses of authority, such as this article illustrates.

    The biggest problem with Washington is that they treat us citizens with contempt, as if we're the enemy. Frisking people who want to travel or attend a sporting event, spying and amassing data without warrant or oversight, overspending, attempting to silence free speech, acting in secret, etc. If they want to improve public opinion, they should work towards the common good in a bi-partisan manner. Serve the American people, protect the Constitution, balance the budget, fix our education system, and take a hard-line stance against outsourcing. You know, like they're supposed to be doing in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Michael, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 5:23am

    Transparency Report

    I wonder how many requests they get to take down their transparency report.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    The Real Michael, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 5:24am

    Re: Google's "transparency" is fake.

    Well I for one don't use Google. There are many other ways to search the internet besides Google (and Yahoo).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Dirkmaster (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 6:00am

    Re: Re:

    I would agree with this, yet I think the problem is not that the government treats us as the enemy (although they certainly do), but that they treat us as children. Unfortunately, much of this we have ourselves to blame. Too many people cry "The government should protect us from ourselves! The government should feed/cloth/provide for us. THE GOVERNMENT MUST DO SOMETHING!". So since so many acting like crying babies, unable to take care of themselves, the government treats us this way.

    Alas, I don't see this changing until the majority grows us, and stops looking to the government to provide for all their needs.

     

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  10.  
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    Coogan (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 6:58am

    There are a lot more like that, mostly from countries that have less respect for free speech than the US.

    Seems like it's getting harder and harder to say this, at least with a straight face.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    gorehound (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 7:12am

    Re:

    Yup ! Bad times may be coming and it is all Thanks to the Greedy Rich and the A-Hole Politicians.
    None of them are really sitting down and reading History Books.May be if they did they would know that their days are numbered.
    Every Power throughout History who pushed the People to hard eventually got what they deserved for their foul treatment of human beings.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    MrWilson, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 7:16am

    Re: Google's "transparency" is fake.

    What does Lieberman's opinion of how Google should be used have to do with Google's "real purpose?"

    Even the use of the phrase "real purpose" indicates thatyou assume that there is only one purpose to a search engine business, which is absurd and overly simplified.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    PopeRatzo (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 7:21am

    Jefferson, Franklin, Madison

    Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sucks my sweaty balls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    The Real Michael, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 7:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's very true. We need smaller government, not bigger government. Furthermore, we need transparency across the board. No more secret treaties, no more backroom dealings, no more corporate lobbyists!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Forest_GS (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 8:14am

    Re: Re:

    The American TV news stations are all hype/seasoning and no what-matters/meat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Mr. Applegate, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re:

    "None of them are really sitting down and reading History Books.May be if they did they would know that their days are numbered."

    Actually, I bet they are very familiar with history. However, as is true with most people who have power, they are delusional and think they are better than the poor idiots that failed before them. The power hungry always think they have the people under their thumb, just where they want them, only to later discover they fell and for the same reasons as those before them.

    Very old saying but it bears repeating: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." - John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton

    or

    "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it" - William Pitt the Elder, Earl of Chatham

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 8:49am

    Re: Re: Google's "transparency" is fake.

    Exactly. Lieberman's views on freedom and free speech are well established, and this rhetoric was unsurprising when he started engaging in it. But none of that has anything to do with google's motivations and purpose, only what he wants their purpose to be. If anything, that he must make such demands indicates that they do not share Lieberman's views or he would not have had to make them in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Mr. Applegate, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re: Google's "transparency" is fake.

    You may not consciously use Google (or Yahoo, or Bing or ...) but rest assured that unless you go to extraordinary measures they have a lot of information about you. More than you might think.

    A large number of sites use Google Analytics, then of course there is Facebook likes, G+ plus ones and twitter likes they all are used to track your movement across the web (no you don't have to click on them). Many sites searches are performed by Google as well. So saying I don't use Google, doesn't mean Google doesn't know all about you.

    TechDirt has 3 social networks, 1 ad network and 5 companies tracking you. So on this one site that is 9 companies tracking you (including Google Analytics, and Google+).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 9:07am

    "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers"

    Over/under on how long it takes for Disney to send a takedown?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Ruben, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Google's "transparency" is fake.

    Adblock+Ghostery+HTTPS Everywhere.

    Not very extraordinary, and blocks most of the trackers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re:

    However, as is true with most people who have power, they are delusional and think they are better than the poor idiots that failed before them.


    A thousand time this. I can't tell you how many CEOs and businesspeople I have encountered who repeat stupid mistakes of other executives. When you confront them, they are full of reasons why "it's different in this case/time". They always think they're smarter than their forebears. They never actually are.

    There's also a bit of the notion that "everybody mistakes the limits of their vision for the limits of the world" involved.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Google's "transparency" is fake.

    So on this one site that is 9 companies tracking you (including Google Analytics, and Google+).


    Speak for yourself. Like Ruben, I block them all. It's not extraordinary effort, it's trivial effort.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Mr. Applegate, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Google's "transparency" is fake.

    Keyword "Most" It only takes one.

    Adblock does not block much in the way of tracking, mostly it blocks ad beacons, the main purpose is to block ads from showing up.

    HTTPS Everywhere, only attempts to secure the communications between the endpoints, it does not block the kind of tracking we are talking about.

    Of the products you mentioned only Ghostery attempts to handle web tracking. I use multiple tools and can assure you that using only the tools you mentioned will not keep you from being tracked (though it will help close the floodgate).

    To prevent tracking does take rather extraordinary effort. You have to be ever vigilant. You have to maintain multiple email addresses; not enter your email address on sites, name age... on sites; you have to be careful to keep up with the newest tracking methods... The list goes on for a very long time if you truly do not want to be tracked.

    Don't use an iPhone, or Android phone either, or Windows phone, in fact don't use any smartphone. Don't use social networks, Foursquare, and search sites. Don't enter any personal information on any site.... Do Use TOR. Yeah, if you REALLY don't want to be tracked it takes a lot of work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Nov 14th, 2012 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    There is no news on TV in the US. It's all entertainment that is, at it's absolute best, loosely connected with some kind of actual fact.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2012 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Google's "transparency" is fake.

    Especially with NoScript and many other tools like it.

    NoScript has no defaults that it allows. literally it is No Scripts until you specifically allow them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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