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Google charts surge in government takedown requests

25 Apr 2013
Google logo (Robert Scoble Flickr)

From July to December 2012 Google received 2,285 government requests to remove content from its platforms, an all-time high.

Google's reported in its bi-annual transparency report that government requested takedowns are up from the first half of last year. The search giant reported that requests were at 1,811 from January to June 2012.

"As we've gathered and released more data over time, it's become increasingly clear that the scope of government attempts to censor content on Google services has grown," wrote Google legal director Susan Infantino in a blog post.

"In more places than ever, we've been asked by governments to remove political content that people post on our services. In this particular time period, we received court orders in several countries to remove blog posts criticising government officials or their associates."

Brazil and the US led the world for total requests for takedowns through a court order. Brazil had 640 requests for takedowns. While the US called for 262 takedowns.

Google reports it only complied with requests in Brazil 21 percent of the time. The search giant complied with the US slightly more at a rate of 45 percent.

According to Google's Transparency Report, over 30 percent of requests come from members of government hoping to remove defamatory content. Google reported that countries such as Argentina and Denmark issued take down requests for content that disparaged government leaders.

UK government officials also called on Google to remove content that portrayed the government in a negative light. Google reported that it received three requests to take down content from UK officials during the second half of 2012.

One Member of Parliament called on Google to get rid of a blog post that reported he was advising businesses while working for the government. Google did not take down the request. However, the firm sent the MP's notice to the blog's creator who willingly took the posting down.

Another instance involved a UK local law enforcement agency's request to take down a YouTube video that falsely portrayed an official wearing a racist uniform. Google did not remove the video following the request.

Local law enforcement also asked that another YouTube video be taken down because it criticised police procedures. Google dismissed the notice as the video broke no laws.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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