Google accuses governments of attempting search censorship

Chris Davies - Dec 19, 2013, 4:59pm CST
Google accuses governments of attempting search censorship

Google has released its eighth Transparency Report, its public disclosure of how much content governments request be removed from the search giant’s database. 3,846 government requests were filed between January and June 2013, Google says, covering a total of 24,737 items of content. That, Google legal director Susan Infantino wrote today, is a 68-percent increase over the preceding six months. As Infantino points out, it’s a sign of a “worrying trend” that remains.

That’s how much governments ask to have political content removed. According to the legal director, the requests include judges asking to have critical comments excised from the index, and institutions that want to obscure the decision-making processes the work by.

Just because Google receives the requests, doesn’t mean it acts on them. Less than a third of the 93 requests made during the six month period by governments to take down critical content were actually acted on, with justifications used including defamation, privacy, and copyright laws.

Breaking down some of the numbers, Google highlights Turkey and Russia as countries where requests rose particularly. In Turkey – where 1,673 came in during the six months – calls for removals increased tenfold versus the second half of 2012. In Russia, requests doubled, to 257.

Google has been a vocal advocate for greater freedom to discuss the demands of governments and intelligence agencies, particularly over the past year when more attention has been paid to issues like the Edward Snowden whistleblowing revealing NSA monitoring. The search giant has – among others – sued the US government for permission to disclose more on FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) requests, which are used to extract information on web use without the target necessarily being made aware of the attention they are under.

Permission to include FISA requests in the transparency report was applied for by Google earlier this year, but has so far been denied.

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