Governments throughout the world are requesting that Internet companies censor large amounts of online content, and the usual suspects aren’t the only countries involved.
This from a new semi-annual transparency report put together by the search engine giant Google.
Much of the content that governments asked to have removed from the Internet was political in nature, and many of the requests were made by Western democracies that that are not typically considered proponents of censorship.
According to Google, Spain asked the company to remove 270 links to blogs and newspaper articles critical of public figures. Poland asked for the removal of an article and eight links that directed users to the article that criticized a government agency. In both cases Google says it declined to comply.
Canadian officials asked the company to remove a video of a YouTube user who urinated on his passport and flushed it down the toilet, a request that was also disregarded.
In the United Kingdom, government officials said YouTube was hosting at least six videos that promoted terrorism. The company removed all of the videos. And in the United States, authorities asked Google to remove 187 Internet posts that they deemed to be harassing in content. Google reportedly complied with 42 percent of the requests.
Dorothy Chou, Google’s senior policy analyst, wrote in a blog post about the report:
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.
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.
Other countries that requested content removal include Pakistan, which unsuccessfully requested the removal of six YouTube videos that satirized its army and senior politicians, and Thailand, which asked for the removal of 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy — a violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. The company complied with 70 percent of the Thai requests.
Overall, Google complied with an average of 65 percent of court orders, as opposed to 47 percent of more informal requests in the six-month period covered by the report.