Google Releases Latest Transparency Report On Gov't Censorship Requests, As Verizon Finally Agrees To Release A Transparency Report
from the kicking-and-screaming dept
Google, which kicked off the trend of tech companies issuing “transparency” reports concerning requests for information on users as well as requests to takedown content, has now released its latest data on government requests to take down info, noting that there was a pretty big increase in attempts to take down information:
From January to June 2013, we received 3,846 government requests to remove 24,737 pieces of content—a 68 percent increase over the second half of 2012.
Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content. 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 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. These officials often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services. In this particular reporting period, we received 93 requests to take down government criticism and removed content in response to less than one third of them. Four of the requests were submitted as copyright claims.
Google notes that Turkey and Russia, in particular, had a massive influx of requests to take down information. The overall trend is kind of startling:
Meanwhile, in slightly related news, we’ve noted that while a whole bunch of tech companies, now including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Twitter, Apple and more, release similar transparency reports, attempts to get the telcos to do the same had not gone well. It appears that, unlike AT&T, Verizon is actually planning to release a transparency report concerning requests for government information.
The press release on this notes that the company is “working with the U.S. government regarding the detail the company can report,” so the end result is likely to be fairly opaque. Already, the government has denied the rights of the tech companies to disclose how often it gets FISA court requests, so that will likely continue here. Additionally, for national security letters, the government has only allowed the reporting of ridiculously broad “ranges” of numbers. Still, kudos to Verizon for at least taking a small step in the direction of transparency.