Google Transparency report: increasing trend of government censorship

By EDRi · June 20, 2012

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Deutsch: [Google Transparenzbericht: Staatliche Zensur nimmt zu |]

According to Google’s latest bi-annual transparency report covering the
July-December 2011 period, the number of governmental requests for
users’ private data and content taking down has continued to grow.

The report shows the situation for each country separately and refers to
the requests received from judiciary and executive power authorities,
the request for content removal related to copyright infringements being
dealt with separately.

Thus, the total number of requests has reached 11 936 in the second half
of 2011 as compared with 9 600 in the same period in 2010 and 8 959 in
the second half of 2009.

The Spanish Data Protection Agency, for instance, has made 14 requests
for content removal, most of them related to results leading to blogs or
websites that referred to political or public people. The agency has
also requested the elimination of three blogs hosted by Blogger and 3
video clips from YouTube. Google has however refused to comply with
the requests which had no court support, considering them as
governmental censorship.

In Poland the Agency for Development of Businesses had demanded the
search engine to delete a search result that was not favourable to the
Agency and 8 other links that were pointing to this result.

In France, the state demanded the deletion of 61 content pieces by 31
requests, most of them for defamatory content or pornography on YouTube.

Google’s report is giving the number of requests the company complied
with or rejected making a distinction between the judicial requests and
the administrative ones. “There are several reasons why we do not comply
with certain requests. Some of them may be specific enough so that we
may know what the government wants us to suppress”.

Google policy analyst Dorothy Chou has stated for Forbes that Google
requires certain criteria for the requests. These must be submitted in a
written form, have to come from an appropriate agency, must cite a
criminal case and have to be narrow enough regarding the number of users
that they affect and the time frame of data that is requested. ”We want
to show that we’re advocating on your behalf. But we also want to do
right by the spirit and letter of the law,” says Chou.

Google considers as alarming the fact that even countries considered
democratic, such as Spain, France, Poland, UK, US or Canada have
increased their requests related to political expressions.

“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. Just like every other time before, 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,” stated Chou.

Google Transparency Report for July-December 2011

Google denounces an alarming level of governmental censorship (only in
French, 18.06.2012)

Google refuses the removal of the links that the Protection of Data
requires (only in Spanish, 18.06.2012)

U.S. Government Requests For Google Users’ Private Data Jump 37% In One
Year (17.06.2012)