Google has released yet another transparency report to aid users in understanding the demands made by governments and authorities for the takedown of data on the Internet across the world. This time, however, Google has made it evident that the increase in the demand by governments the world over, including the Indian government, to week out blogs and videos from Google properties has been worrisome for it.
The Internet giant received 38 court orders and 122 other requests from Indian authorities between July and December 2012. Google says that it complied with 53 percent of court order requests, affecting 413 items between the period mentioned above. In contrast, Google complied with only 30 percent requests made by other authorities from India, but this affected a whopping 2,529 items that had been requested to be removed.
Requets for content removal a worrying trend
What’s interesting – and a little scary – to note here is that the number of requests from Indian authorities was about a 90 percent higher than those sent out in the previous six months. Defamation and Religious Offenses and Privacy and Security related requests were the most frequently cited categories by both Courts and the Executive.
Google mentions that India was one of the 20 countries to inquire about a YouTube movie called “Innocence of Muslims” that caused an uproar in multiple countries over its depiction of Islam. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team also requested removal of content from Google+, a Blogger blog, 64 YouTube videos and 1,759 comments thanks to the period of disturbance in the North East. In response, one YouTube video was removed for violating Community Guidelines of the site and 47 videos were restricted from local views. Another request received was from a city Cyber Crime Investigation Cell to remove current depictions of disputed border of Jammu and Kashmir in five Google Maps domains, but the company did not comply.
In a blog post regarding the transparency report, Susan Infantino, Legal Director for Google mentioned that the company received 3,846 government requests to remove 24,737 pieces of content from their websites, a 68 percent increase over the second half of 2012. “Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content. Judges have asked us to remove information that’s critical of them, police departments want us to take down videos or blogs that shine a light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don’t want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes. These officials often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services,” she wrote.
Infantino clarified that the information in Google’s Transparency Report is not a comprehensive view of censorship online but it does demonstrate a worrying upward trend in government request numbers. Google has been putting out Transparency Reports since 2010 now and hopes to encourage policy debates and decisions around the world.