18 Jun 2012

Western Governments Increasingly Seek to Censor Internet Postings, Says Google

Requests to remove political content have increased dramatically in the last six months, with surprise contributions from several Western democracies, says Google’s bi-annual transparency report.

Regulators from democracies such as Spain, Poland and even Canada regulators asked Google to remove satirical comments or controversial content. The search engine removed five U.K. YouTube accounts for promoting terrorism, 70% of 149 YouTube videos insulting Thailand's monarchy, and six Pakistani videos related to senior politicians. Spain also asked for removal of 270 links to blogs and newspapers due to criticism of public figures.

"Unfortunately, what we've seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data, in 2010, we noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not,” said Dorothy Chou, Google's senior policy analyst.

"This is the fifth data set that we've released. Just like every other time, we've been asked to take down political speech. It's alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect – Western democracies not typically associated with censorship."

A total of 3.3 million requests to remove copyright material were received last year and Google complied with 97% of them. These numbers are likely to increase this year. Google complied with informal and court order requests by 47% and 64%, respectively, in the six-month period.