Google has published its latest Transparency Report and the results are not encouraging for free speech advocates: governments around the world are asking it to remove more content than ever before.
In the second half of 2012, the number of government requests to remove content from services like YouTube and Blogger increased from 1,811 to 2,285, and the number of items targeted for censorship increased from 18,070 to 24,179. As this screenshot shows, government requests have been rising steadily for years:
Many of these requests appear to have come from politicians who invoke defamation laws to remove content that was damaging or embarrassing. In a section of the report that breaks down requests by country, Google notes it received a request to remove a YouTube video that allegedly showed the President of Argentina “in a compromising position.” (Google did not comply with the request but did impose age restrictions on the video.)
Google also noted a spike in requests from Brazil where electoral law permits candidates to ban “offensive” material, and from Russia where a controversial law allows the government to remove content it seems harmful to young people. The company also received requests from multiple countries to censor the “Innocence of Muslims” video.
The content censorship report is part of Google’s ongoing effort to shed light on how governments seek to access its data and suppress content. In the last year, the company has begin issuing the report in two parts — one devoted to content takedown and another dedicated to requests to identify users. Under the content section, Google also shows copyright takedown requests from private companies.
Twitter has recently followed Google’s example by creating transparency reports of its own. Other prominent social media and content providers, including Facebook, have remained largely silent on the issue.
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