Google's Latest Transparency Report Shows Increased Censorship From Governments Not Normally Known For Censorship
from the not-cool dept
Google has continued to update its big “Transparency Report” with new data on specific content takedown requests from government agencies. With this latest update, Google has put out a blog post warning people that governments — including those not normally associated with censorship — are increasingly seeking to shut down speech for what appear to be politically motivated reasons:
We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.
This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. And just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. 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 censorship.
For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn’t comply with either of these requests.
There are some interesting, if odd, specific examples, like the following:
Brazil: In December, we received an electoral court order that resulted in the removal of four orkut profiles for content related to political campaigns.
Canada: We received a request from the Passport Canada office to remove a YouTube video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet. We did not comply with this request.
Pakistan: We received a request from the Government of Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology to remove six YouTube videos that satirized the Pakistan Army and senior politicians. We did not comply with this request.
Poland: We received a request from the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development to remove a search result that criticized the agency as well as eight more that linked to it. We did not comply with this request.
Spain: We received 14 requests from the Spanish Data Protection Authority to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and sites referencing individuals and public figures. The Spanish Data Protection Authority also ordered the removal of three blogs published on Blogger and three videos hosted on YouTube. We did not comply with these requests.
United States: We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove a blog because of a post that allegedly defamed a law enforcement official in a personal capacity. We did not comply with this request, which we have categorized in this Report as a defamation request.
We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 1,400 YouTube videos for alleged harassment. We did not comply with this request. Separately, we received a request from a different local law enforcement agency to remove five user accounts that allegedly contained threatening and/or harassing content. We terminated four of the accounts, which resulted in the removal of approximately 300 videos, but did not remove the remaining account with 54 videos.
We received a court order to remove 218 search results that linked to allegedly defamatory websites. We removed 25% of the results cited in the request.
This expansion of governments seeking to censor speech via Google takedowns is clearly worrisome, though it’s good to see that Google at least investigates the details before taking down the content.