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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Western Democracies Continue their Attempts to Filter Google

Google has recently disclosed how many takedown notices the company has got from government agencies. The search engine confessed that it has received over 1,000 requests within 6 months from the governments to take down data from its search results or YouTube video.

Google slammed a so-called alarming trend by governments to try and censor the people. The company published its twice-yearly Transparency Report, saying that the above mentioned requests were aimed at having around 12,000 items overall deleted. This figure was 25% more than during the first 6 months of 2011. This means that the government agencies are getting a taste for censorship.

Google’s senior policy analyst admitted they hoped the rise earlier in 2011 had been a one off, but it appeared that it hadn’t. Plenty of the requests were aimed at silencing political speech. The most interesting part is that they came from Western governments, which are not usually associated with filtering.

Although Google didn’t list anything specific, the search engine still said that it was really surprised by the UK and the US spending most of their time trying to censor websites. The United States was said to be especially bad. The company complained that police prosecutors, courts and other agencies submitted almost 200 requests within the last 6 months of 2011, which doubles the number of the requests submitted in the first 6 months.

Meanwhile, Spain asked Google to take down 270 links to blogs and newspaper articles which criticized public figures, the list including mayors and public prosecutors. However, the search giant said no to that one. In response, a couple months ago the highest court of the country asked the European Court of Justice to find out whether the requests submitted by citizens to removed the links were lawful.

The company admits that in some countries it has no choice but to comply with these requests, because some types of political speech are against the law there. For instance, in Germany Google removed videos from YouTube with Nazi references as those were banned. Another example is Thailand videos that feature the monarch with a seat over his head – they were also removed for being insulting.

Finally, one takedown request came from Canada, where the company was asked by the authorities to remove a YouTube video featuring a citizen having a nintendo on his passport and flushing it down the loo. The search giant said no to this one as well. 

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