Online Privacy And Censorship: Google Reports Sharp Rise In Government Requests For User Details And To Take Down Content
More and more requests are coming from governments and courts and other law enforcement agencies in the US and Europe to provide them with user details as well as asking Google for content to be taken down on grounds of national security, according to the latest Google Transparency Report.
During the first six months of 2011, Google received over 65 requests to take down 330 items on YouTube for reasons of national security or other legal reasons. The company argues that it only removes content when there is a “clear case” for it. "As the report shows, we don't simply censor on request, we ensure there is a case for removal," said company spokesman Stephen Rosenthal.
The US Government continues to produce the most requests with over 113 requests to take down content as well as requesting information about 11,000 Google user accounts. This is a jump of about 25% from the requests in the previous six months ending in December 2010.
However, the biggest jump in requests come from the UK with almost a 71% increase from the previous 6 months. The government has requested 113 items be taken down for privacy, inciting violence or hate speech and ‘other’ that include court orders. In addition, the government has also asked information about 12000 Google user accounts. The Internet giant said it has complied with 82% of the UK Government’s requests.
"The government takes the threat of online extremist or hate content very seriously," said a Home Office spokesperson defending the government’s requests. "Where unlawful content is hosted in the United Kingdom, the police have the power to seek its removal and where hosted overseas, we work closely with our international partners to effect its removal."
Among other European countries, the number of requests by the French government actually fell by 61% and made only 9 requests while in Germany the numbers went up to 118 – a rise of 6%. However, in India, Google reported that it refused to delete 236 communities and profiles from its social network site - Orkut – because the offending communities were practicing democracy and was critical to a local politician.