Google Reveals Content Governments Asked Be Removed in Latest Transparency Report

Google
People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Google logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Google released on Monday its semiannual transparency report, which for the first time included nearly 30 examples of content that dozens of governments have asked the search engine giant to remove.

Within the United States, Google revealed that the Georgia Department of Corrections asked for a YouTube video depicting inmate abuse be removed, a court requested that articles related to a Tampa pharmacist’s arrest for soliciting sex from a minor be removed and local law enforcement agencies sought the removal of YouTube videos allegedly defaming officers, to name a few. None of the above requests for content removal were granted.

Another example included 20 countries that called for the removal of YouTube video clips from the movie "Innocence of Muslims.” Google ultimately decided to restrict viewing in Indonesia, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Turkey, and temporarily restrict the videos in Egypt and Libya.

Overall, Google received 3,105 requests from world governments between July 2013 and December 2013 to wipe 14,367 pieces of content. In the previous 6-month allotment, from December 2012 to July 2013, 3,846 requests were made—the highest number since Google began releasing transparency reports in 2010. Overall, 2013 saw a 60 percent increase in takedown requests from 2012.

Google explained that the spike in requests in the first half of 2013 aligns with a burst of requests from Turkey, which later slowed. During the latter half of the year, requests from Italy and Thailand rose. Overall, Russia saw a 25 percent increase in requests in 2013.

Google also revealed that between July 2013 and December 2013, governments mostly requested content be removed from blogs (1,066 requests), searches (841 requests) and YouTube (765 requests). During this period, 38 percent of governments cited defamation as a reason for their request, 16 percent cited obscenity or nudity and 11 percent cited privacy or security.

“Our Transparency Report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online,” Google explained in an accompanying blog post. “However, it does provide a lens on the things that governments and courts ask us to remove, underscoring the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests.”