Requests to remove content growing for Google
A concerning number of government from around the world have requested that Internet giant Google remove online content during the previous year.
Google is in a unique position as an Internet company. While many websites have a single simple goal, Google enables users to do a number of different tasks on the Internet. For instance, while a website like Amazon has the singular aim of selling people various goods, Google acts as a medium for a variety of actions, including searches, news, video and even social media.
This puts the company in a unique position when it comes to its control over the various forms of content posted to the site. The access that Google can provide users can span a number of different sectors, from a simply video on YouTube to potentially illegal content, the possibilities of what can be accessed are seemingly endless.
When the Edward Snowden leaks came out, Google, along with many other Internet powerhouses like Facebook and Microsoft, were both criticized and victim to the invasive policies that the National Security Agency's PRISM program created. On the one hand, the company needed to provide the government organization with user data, but looked to be transparent about how it complied with this rule.
Fortunately, the company has been fairly good about remaining transparent about its actions. However, while this transparency is nice, it also reveals some alarming information about government action around the world, namely, requests to remove content from its various holdings.
These requests have grown across the board, according to the company's official blog. Between January and June of 2013, the firm received 3,846 government requests to remove nearly 25,000 pieces of content. Unfortunately, this was an increase of 68 percent over the second half of 2012.
The nature of the content is concerning as most of it deals with the conduct of various government bodies. This is alarming because instead of these governments looking to change the way they conduct their various policies, they are simply looking to erase any record of it online.
"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," wrote, Susan Infantino, Legal Director at Google. "These officials often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services."
Turkey and Russia lead in requests
According to the company blog, Turkey and Russia were among the biggest countries for concern. In Turkey – a country that has been marred by political upheaval and protest for much of this year – there were 1,673 requests from authorities to remove content. This was almost ten times more than the second half of 2012.
Russia also saw an increase in requests, especially since the government's website blacklist took effect. The Russian government submitted 257 removal requests during the reporting period, which was more than double the last six months of 2012.
U.S. requests increase
While the aforementioned countries were among the largest in volume for requests, the U.S. was also grew alarmingly more active. Domestically, these requests grew by 70 percent, according to the New York Times. One example of such activity is a U.S. police officer who sought to remove a newspaper article's link to a story about his record.
The fact that these requests have increased is alarming. It seems that if government would like to stop seeing such conduct published about them, the best course of action would be to cease doing these kinds of actions, rather than engaging in this subtle form of censorship.