For all the things Google does that seem to catch the ire of its users, it’s Transparency Report is not one of them. The Transparency Report is where Google documents and publishes all government requests (whether court orders, police requests, etc) to remove content from Google’s sites or services, and to the search company’s credit, it doesn’t always comply.
Google states that “governments ask companies to remove content for many different reasons. For example, some content removals are requested due to allegations of defamation, while others are due to allegations that the content violates local laws prohibiting hate speech or pornography. Laws surrounding these issues vary by country, and the requests reflect the legal context of a given jurisdiction. We hope this tool will be helpful in discussions about the appropriate scope and authority of government requests.”
I take solace in the fact that Google doesn’t always comply with government requests to remove content. The reason being is that, as someone with a journalism background, I am no fan of censorship, and to the naked eye that’s what these requests appear to be. While I am aware that many of these requests are most likely valid and reasonable, it’s still good to see Google keeping free speech alive on the web.
Surprisingly, the United States was not the country with the most takedown requests. According to the July 2011 to December 2011 report, Brazil is the leader with 194 requests to remove 554 items. Google complied with 105 (about 54 percent) of those requests. Whereas the US sent Google 187 requests to remove 6,192 items from its services and sites, 75 (or 40 percent) of which were complied with. What’s most startling about these statistics isn’t the fact that the US is second on the list, it’s the fact that while it’s second, it’s still first with respect to the amount of items requested for takedown.
The US’s 6,192 items is more than 11-times the amount of items Brazil asked Google to remove, even though they filed more requests. How’s this for comparison? The average amount of items per request for Brazil was about 2.8 items. The US, on the other hand, had a whopping 33.11 items per request. So while the US might not be sending the most requests, it’s still attempting to have the most content removed, by a long shot. And to beat that, according to The Next Web, the amount of requests from the US is up more than 100 percent. In a blog post, Google calls this increase in requests “troubling,” because it was hoping that the spike in requests in years previous were just anomalies. But it’s clear that this isn’t the case.
Regardless of whether or not the government has the right to control what is and isn’t published on the internet, it’s refreshing to see the world’s most important web company take a stand in favor of free speech.