Google has today updated a transparency report which in part very suggestively points toward the videos you may have encountered over the past 24 hours that document an apparent set of police brutality cases taking place during the Occupy Oakland events of October 2011. Apparently they’ve had requests and/or demands from law enforcement agencies to take down videos of the same nature as the videos in question for fear that they would “defame” law enforcement officials. Google has decidedly refused in the past, and due to their promotion of such a stance this week, seems quite likely to be refusing again for the events at Occupy Oakland. The reason this bit of content is a Column instead of your everyday average post is that it contains a bit more conjecture than your average news story – aka you’re with me now, ladies and gentlemen, so see if you agree.
Of course this week we’ve also heard reports that Google has complied with the vast majority of takedown requests on user data over the past year, but today is different in its apparent – and I do once again note that this is not CONFIRMED, but seems quite OBVIOUS to your humble narrator – nature.
The connection comes in the form of THREE quotes from Google. The first is in a post on Google’s Enterprise blog:
More than 4 million businesses and 40 million users trust us with the data they store in Google Apps. We work to be responsible stewards of that data, and transparency is one important aspect of that. Last year, we posted a Transparency Report to provide the Internet community with more insight about how often governments ask for user data. Earlier this week, we published an update to the report. For the first time, we’re not only disclosing the number of requests for user data, but we’re showing the number of users or accounts that are specified in those requests, too.
The “update to the report” included the following, as posted on the Official Google blog:
Today we’re updating the Government Requests tool with numbers for requests that we received from January to June 2011. For the first time, we’re not only disclosing the number of requests for user data, but we’re showing the number of users or accounts that are specified in those requests too. We also recently released the raw data behind the requests. Interested developers and researchers can now take this data and revisualize it in different ways, or mash it up with information from other organizations to test and draw up new hypotheses about government behaviors online.
We believe that providing this level of detail highlights the need to modernize laws like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which regulates government access to user information and was written 25 years ago—long before the average person had ever heard of email. Yet at the end of the day, the information that we’re disclosing offers only a limited snapshot. We hope others join us in the effort to provide more transparency, so we’ll be better able to see the bigger picture of how regulatory environments affect the entire web.
The two quotes below, both published on the 27th of October, show that the quote below, though it sits inside a Google transparency report that shows a report on the first half of 2011, shows that Google has and continues to keep this stance on the subject at hand:
“We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.”
I must remind you once more that this paragraph is connected to the first half of this year, but that because of Googles promotion of this report this week, and the fact that it appears that NONE of the videos from Occupy Oakland with Police Brutality in them have been removed (to this author’s knowledge), that Google has refused all requests (that may or may not have been made) to take them down. Your narrator here happened upon this connection in an article on Read Write Web – as you’ll see in the comments, Jon Mitchell answered your humble narrator’s request to clarify the issue as it was first written, this then also resulting in the post you are now reading.
And what about the video / videos in question?
Here’s just a few of them. Lemme know what you think about them and the possibility that Google has both had requests to take them down by local police institutions and has refused those requests: