Oct 31, 2020 | Updated: 09:48 PM EDT

New Google Report Details Government Takedown Requests

Dec 20, 2013 12:43 PM EST

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Google on Thursday released a new Transparency Report detailing government requests to remove content from the company’s sites.  The report paints a pretty bleak picture of the state of American Democracy, citing numerous and inappropriate requests by officials, political institutions and law enforcement agencies.

Overall, Google says government requests to remove content in the second half of 2013 shot up 68 percent over the same period in 2012, with a total of 3,846 requests pertaining to 24,737 pieces of content. 

“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,” the company wrote in a Google Blog post. “These officials often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services. In this particular reporting period, we received 93 requests to take down government criticism and removed content in response to less than one third of them. Four of the requests were submitted as copyright claims.” 

The increase in government requests to remove content isn’t only coming from the U.S. Mountain View reported a sharp increase in requests from Turkey mostly associated with the country’s Internet censorship laws. Google says Russia also requested more takedowns than it had in 2012 and attributes the increase to a blacklist law passed last fall.

Google hopes its Transparency Reports will help facilitate meaningful debates on policy and Internet freedom, but admits the document is far from a comprehensive analysis of online censorship. The company also releases a report on government requests to spy on user data, however many such requests are omitted due to various national security laws.

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