Today, the advertising giant said that, in the first six months of 2013, it received 3,846 demands from public officials to remove 24,737 personal blog posts, YouTube videos and other pieces of content it hosts. That’s up 68 per cent on the second half of 2012.
And according to the web giant, which has just published its latest transparency report, 93 requests focused on content that was critical of people in public office. Defamation and copyright infringement were often cited, but less than one third of the highlighted material was removed in the first half of 2013.
“Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content,” wrote Google legal director Susan Infantino, who called out Turkey and Russia for ramping up the number of complaints.
“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,” she added.
In the US, Google said that it saw requests for content removal up 70 per cent over last year. Notable cases include the removal of 76 apps from the Google Play store over alleged infringements of government copyrights and the denied takedown request from a local official who sought to remove pages outlining his record as a police officer.
In the UK, Google said it shot down a request from a local government council to take down a critical website, and upheld a request to pull a preview from a book that alleged illegal activity by an unnamed member of Parliament.
The report is the latest in a transparency program that Google is soon hoping to expand. The company has petitioned the US government to allow it to post information and notifications relating to FISA takedown requests. Thus far the requests have not been granted.
Verizon is also preparing to launch its own transparency report on law enforcement data requests, a particularly interesting development given the mobile carrier’s recent interactions with the NSA and the revelations of federal officials collecting mass archives of user activity.
“All companies are required to provide information to government agencies in certain circumstances, however, and this new report is intended to provide more transparency about law enforcement requests,” said Verizon general counsel and executive vice president of public policy Randall Milch.
“Although we have a legal obligation to provide customer information to law enforcement in response to lawful demands, we take seriously our duty to provide such information only when authorized by law.”