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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    arcan, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 8:28am

    google is one of 2 companies i sorta trust. the other is valve. that is just cause hats though.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 11:28am

      Re:

      I used to then I realized the CIA and NSA helped put forth the initial capital for Google and maintain some of its stock.

       

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    identicon
    Nellius, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 8:33am

    The really worrying thing is that only a company on google's level could realistically hire enough people to scrutinise these requests before complying. Smaller companies would have little choice but to censor.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 8:56am

      Re:

      Another worrying thing is that other companies haven't come out and reported on what the government is making them remove or reveal. I hope Google continues to set the bar high.

       

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    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 8:33am

    And the AC trolls wonder why people here are on edge for legislation that puts tools like takedown requests into the hands of the government.

     

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      Mason Wheeler, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      Not at all. The government already has all the takedown tools they need. (See: ICE censoring websites.) But that at least involves the legal process, and can be challenged. What people are on edge about is legislation that moves takedown powers further into the hands of private individuals *outside* the moderating effects of the justice system.

       

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    silverscarcat (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 8:38am

    Again, this just proves that if Google takes over the world, you know that they'll do a good job of running it.

     

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      identicon
      Mr. Oizo, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 9:19am

      Re:

      Ah, bullshit. Power corrupts. Only by placing all the cards on the table can someone be trusted. In this case, google doesn't put all its cards on the table, it mainly draws attention to the cards of others.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 10:54am

        Re: Re:

        thats a joke right?

         

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      •  
        icon
        Torg (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 12:21pm

        Re: Re:

        Even given that you're right about their motives, Google is still setting a good example. If everyone put each other's cards on the table, everyone's cards would be on the table.

         

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        silverscarcat (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 12:59pm

        Re: Re:

        One common saying among people on the internet...

        "you know Google's trying to take over the world. We don't care. We know they'd do a good job at it."

        Better than Facebook ever could at least.

         

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 8:51am

    the problem is far worse than just Google. all countries are introducing/have introduced new legislation giving the right to spy on every single citizen, in every single way possible, concerning every aspect of their lives, including now being able to read physical letters. this has, in my opinion, all come from the over-reaction by the USA governments to 9/11 and the forcing of that over-reaction on to all countries. although this was just about the most horrendous and deplorable attack on anyone that could ever happen, those that carried out that attack have achieved their aim. everyone is shit scared of what happened, happening again. now everyone has to suffer!!

     

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      lucidrenegade (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 9:24am

      Re:

      "this has, in my opinion, all come from the over-reaction by the USA governments to 9/11 and the forcing of that over-reaction on to all countries."

      I think that governments, especially the US, were just looking for an excuse to increase their control of their citizens. 9/11 was the excuse they needed.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 10:24pm

        9/11 excuse

        which is why several top US national security and foreign and domestic policy officials had a stated preference in writing and sworn testimony that a major attack on America was NECESSARY as being VITAL to "US interests".

         

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      weneedhelp (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 9:43am

      Re:

      "everyone is shit scared of what happened"

      Nah. Go to NY around 9/11. The security theater ramps up and New Yorkers are like ahh its that 9-11 thing again.

      Just to point out what a joke their security is, Sept-6, 7, 8, & 9... nothing out of the norm, but Sept 10th rolls around and all of a sudden there are cops on every corner with their "roadblocks" and such. I guess potential terrorists wouldnt think to go there a week before. Its stupid really.

       

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      The eejit (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 11:29am

      Re:

      tl;dr Governments want to be Facebook, only with more spam.

       

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    Rikuo (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 9:03am

    Where's bob when you need him? For once, he's right when he calls Google "Big Search" but here, its Big Search for all the right reasons. Now Google lets us know exactly how corrupt multiple democratic governments are acting.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 9:16am

    "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."

    How does Google decide to only comply with a portion of a court order? Did they fight to overturn the order, or did they face contempt of court penalties? Or are they outside of the jurisdiction of the court, and only censored the 25% according to their own policies?

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 10:45am

      Re:

      The probably did the unthinkable and actually reviewed the site in question first before pulling the search results.

       

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      Chargone (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 10:52am

      Re:

      probably more like the rest were the sort of nonsense court order where the proper response is to contest it, or are not filed properly, or are invalid due to whatever protections are in place for such things (safe harbours, constitutional thingies *shrugs* not like i'm a lawyer or a US citizen...)

      also possibly jurisdictional issues. the US is not the only government to completely fail to understand the concept of Borders when it comes to law enforcement as it relates to the internet, but it's certainly the worst. (which is even more amusing when you realise that US companies are some of the worst offenders when it comes to region-locking stuff on the internet...)

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 10:54am

      Re:

      IANAL, but I'd imagine that they submit a declaration or similar to the court, detailing the history of the court order, the individuals or offices involved in the review, and an itemized explanation of each refusal, citing the legal basis.

       

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    Watchit (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 9:35am

    "Western democracies not typically associated with censorship."

    Wait, what? Which ones are those? I thought those were just a myth!

     

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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jun 19th, 2012 @ 10:08am

    Something missing

    I'm waiting patiently for Bing's and Yahoo's Transparency reports...

     

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    identicon
    beltorak, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 7:04pm

    Waiting for the Backlash

    So when will the court orders to stop publishing this information start rolling in? I bet some companies would argue "trade secrets" and governments would argue "national security"...

    Maybe it will come in the form of takedown request? fat lotta good that would do, but it would be funny to see in the takedown report...

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 11:35pm

    The Government controls all the traditional media and now wants to control the free flow of info beyond that.
    Prior to the internet we would have not known that these types of "takedowns" were even happening.
    Censorship? By our Government...Of course not.At least not before the printing press.

     

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