transparency report

Google Transparency Report: U.S. Content Removal Requests Increased 103%

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For the last two years, Google has been releasing data about requests to remove content and hand over user data from government agencies around the world. Late last night, the company released the latest set of this data, which covers the second half of 2011. In it, Google notes that it received 187 content removal requests from U.S. government agencies, asking for the removal of 6,192 items across the company’s product portfolio. To put this into perspective: in the first half of 2011, Google was only asked to remove 757 items in the U.S. and only received 92 removal requests. Google complied with 42% of these requests.

According to its report, Google received 6,321 user data requests covering 12,243 user accounts in the second half of 2011. It complied with 93% of these. While these numbers are slightly higher than for the previous reporting period, Google points out that this increase isn’t surprising, as it continues to attract more users and now offers more products and services.

In a blog post that accompanied the release of this data, Google notes that an increasing number of governments worldwide tend to ask the company to take down political speech. What’s most frightening here, says Google senior political analyst Dorothy Chou, is that “some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.” The Spanish government, for example, asked for the removal of 270 search results “linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.” In total, Google complied with 65% of the court orders it received and 47% of more informal requests.

A number of countries, including the Czech Republic, Bolivia, Ukraine and Jordan made their first removal requests last year.

As for the U.S.’s peaceful neighbors up north, Google says it “received a request from the Passport Canada office to remove a YouTube video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet.” Google did not comply with this request.

You can find the full report here.