Google Says Government Censorship Is Alarming

The Internet has become the ultimate source of information and provides access to countless subjects, even those that are highly under scrutiny such as terrorism. Google says government censorship is alarming and adds that over the past six months it has received over 1,000 requests to remove YouTube videos and search listings.

Part of its bi-annual Global Transparency Report, Google plans to publish this Monday information about government censorship. The company’s report will include the requests it received from governments all over the world in regards to the removal of certain content considered dangerous or controversial.

Over the past six months of 2011, Google says it has received more than 1,000 requests to remove content governments didn’t agree with. The company revealed it has received 461 court orders that pertained to almost 7,000 items and 546 informal requests from governments all over the world. The company consented to half of those requests.

Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst for Google, explained that over the past few years the level of government censorship has increased. “When we started releasing this data, in 2010, we noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services” wrote Chou in a blog post.

“We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not” concludes the policy analyst. She said it’s alarming that governments want “to take down political speech…not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect”.

Truth be told, you’d expect government censorship from China, where the government bans Google content without even informing the company. However, when it comes to “western democracies not typically associated with censorship” such actions are shocking.

Take for instance the United Kingdom, that asked Google to remove 5 YouTube videos that in the government’s opinion were promoting and supporting terrorism. Spain made a request to remove 270 search results that referenced mayors and public prosecutors. Poland wanted Google to remove links to a site that was criticizing the Agency for Enterprise Development.

The United States is also no stranger to government censorship. Google said 187 requests were made by the U.S. to remove 6,192 items. At the same time, the U.S. government’s requests to have Google deliver users’ private data went up by 37 percent, to 6,321 requests.

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