A worldwide predicament that the Internet faces is censorship and Google's latest Transparency Report shows that Western democracies attempt to censor the Internet just as do the usual suspects, like China and India. Google has been releasing their Transparency Report for about two years now and the report is released bi-annually as a result of the process being manual and people driven. The most recent Transparency Report contains data of government requests to remove blog posts and/or videos as well as hand over user information made from July 2011 till December 2011.
Google's Senior Policy Analyst, Dorothy Chou wrote in a blog post that since Google started, there has been one type of request that's extremely common: taking down political content. Chou says, “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… 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.“
Google's report shows how much governments want to watch the internet
The Transparency Report usually contains annotations of the requests that Google finds most interesting. For instance, in this past Transparency Report, a request was noted from the Passport Canada office to remove a video from YouTube of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet. Google said that they did not comply with this request. Google also noted that censorship requests are usually particularly high in Brazil because of the popularity of Google-owned Orkut in the country. In Germany, Google received requests from BPjM, a federal youth protection agency to take down sites containing content that violates Germany's youth protection laws. Such content includes touting Nazi paraphernalia, extreme violence and pornography. These sites will also be removed from search results in google.de, Google's German landing page.
In the United States, Google received a request to take down 1,400 YouTube videos for alleged harrassment. Google says they did not comply with the request. They were also provided with a court order to remove 218 search results that linked to allegedly defamatory websites. Google says that they removed 25 percent of the results cited in the request. In a country, like Thailand however, Google has to comply with local laws that prohibit insult to the country's monarchy. Google removed 70 percent of the 149 YouTube videos that the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology had requested for removal. Coming home to India, Google received 101 content removal requests in the July to December 2011 period, however, in the January to June 2011 period, Google received 68 content removal requests. Out of all of Google's products, YouTube seems to have the largest number of offenses. Interestingly, YouTube, Blogger and search, out of all the reasons for removal, defamation had the most number of items. However, on Orkut, while defamation was still a featured reason, the biggest offence was impersonation. To take a look at the full Transparency Report, click here.