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:
Thankfully, Google appears to refuse to obey the crazier requests. As it details in the report, it turned down a variety of requests, including things like removing an autocomplete entry that had the name of an Argentinian politician and an "illicit drug," a request to remove three YouTube videos that involved "profane language" in reference to an Armenian politician, a bogus copyright claim on a blog post critical of the Bolivian legislative assembly, an order in Brazil to remove some blog posts that were critical of corrupt hiring practices by local government officials, a request from a judge to remove a blog post critical of him, a request from French law enforcement to remove images found via Google Image Search of certain court decisions, a bogus copyright request from law enforcement in Maldives who were trying to takedown a video critical of the police, a request from a Taiwanese parliament member who did not want a search result to link to an article that he claims defames him, and a request from Turkey to avoid linking to information about a politician involved in a sex scandal.

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.

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, 19 Dec 2013 @ 3:59pm

    Oh, joy! Another unverifiable and nearly meaningless bunch of numbers!

    Gosh, guess mega-corporation Google, which is keeping tens of untaxed billions in profits offshore, which spies on us all 24/7, collates it to present to NSA with "direct access" according to Snowden, and which just in the last week removed from Android ways to block others spying on you, which has its "secret" algorithm that can promote or demote whoever they want, guess they actually expect this "transparency" to offset all the obvious dangers of letting mega-corporations run wild. -- And it works on Mike.

    Google wants you to know you're under our ever improving state-of-the-art personalized surveillance! We learn your interests, habits, and associations! All "free", courtesy of other corporations!

    Google. We're spying right up to the creepy limit. (tm) -- And soon as you're used to it, we get creepier!


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

    • icon
      blaktron (profile), 19 Dec 2013 @ 5:15pm

      Re: Oh, joy! Another unverifiable and nearly meaningless bunch of numbers!


      Dude, we all need you to stop being against anyone spying. You're the person we WANT the government to spy on. So please, if you wan't the spying to stop you need to switch sides.


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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2013 @ 6:08pm

        Re: Re: Oh, joy! Another unverifiable and nearly meaningless bunch of numbers!

        this guy is just mad...if he could have successfully created a web indexing program that provided a useful service...where the subscribers only cost is advertising (same as over the air tv)....he wouldn't be here bashing...

        and, yes, tv advertising targets people like it is a very similar model...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2013 @ 12:29am

      Re: Oh, joy! Another unverifiable and nearly meaningless bunch of numbers!

      I like that you consider the basic functionality of a search engine something creepy and deserving of scare quotes.

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

  • identicon
    Boliviana, 20 Dec 2013 @ 9:59am

    Bolivia narco Dictator that enforces censorship in Bolivia also wants to extend to Internet.
    I am glad they stand firm against Evo Morales.

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

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