updated 06:50 pm EDT, Thu June 21, 2012
Report shows western democracies increasingly asking for censorship
Google has released the latest edition of its Transparency Report, which reveals those governments that have been asking the search giant to censor search results or to take down content from Google services. In a blog post on the Google Public Policy Blog, the company notes that the most recent figures point to a disturbing trend: a growing number of requests for content to be taken down come from Western democracies. In fact, the United States government was among the top entities approaching Google for such requests.
Google says that the reasons behind governmental takedown requests are many: some are due to allegations of defamation, while others violate local laws on hate speech or pornography. In the interests of transparency, the company has been publishing reports on governmental requests for about two years, adding features like traffic pattern graphs and disruptions to Google services from different countries. This newest set marks the fifth that Google has released so far, and the company notes that requests from democracies are on the rise.
Between July and December of 2011, Google received 117 court orders from United States governmental bodies requesting that content be removed. The company complied with 40 percent of those requests. Only Brazil, with 128, issued more requests for content takedowns.
The United States was far and away the largest requester of Google user data, filing 6,321 requests between July and December 2011. Google fully or partially complied with 93 percent of those requests. India, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Germany rounded out the top five user data requesters, with 2,207, 1,615, 1,455, and 1,426 requests respectively.
Governmental requests of the like described in Google's report have been a topic of much contention as the Internet has grown in global significance. In the United States, lawmakers have been continually trying to expand the powers available to law enforcement agencies with regard to accessing Internet user data.