Google Reveals Government Attempt to Scrub Alleged Prisoner Abuse
The search giant’s latest transparency reports offers granular detail about the takedown requests it receives from governments around the world.
Google on Monday released information about the government requests it receives to take down its content, revealing attempts in the U.S. to scrub content related to alleged prisoner abuse, sex crimes with a minor, and fraudulent business dealings.
The search giant for the first time released specific examples of takedown requests from governments around the world alongside its semiannual transparency report, providing a fuller look at how law-enforcement agencies and others attempt to police search results and YouTube videos.
One such example recounts a request from the Georgia Department of Corrections to "remove a YouTube video depicting alleged abuse of inmates."
"The department requested the video be removed due to its violent nature," reads the example, listed as occurring between June and December 2013. "Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request as the video did not violate YouTube Community Guidelines."
Overall, Google fielded 3,105 government requests to scrub 14,367 pieces of content—such as a blog post, search result, or YouTube video—from June to December 2013, the most recent interval made available. That marks a slight decrease from the first half of 2013, which witnessed an all-time high of 3,846 requests. Collectively, however, 2013 saw about a 60 percent increase in takedown requests over 2012.
In a blog post, Google attributed the decline to the the absence of a flood of requests from Turkey, which caused a spike earlier in the year. But the Silicon Valley titan did see a 25 percent increase in requests from Russia, as well as increases in requests from Thailand and India.
Google's transparency report is the ninth of its kind. But the inclusion of additional, specific details is part of the company's effort to provide more context to its statistics and "push the envelope on the story we can tell with this kind of information."
"Our Transparency Report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online," the blog post read. "However, it does provide a lens on the things that governments and courts ask us to remove, underscoring the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests."
Another U.S. example recounts a "third-party court order forwarded by a Tampa pharmacist asking us to remove two news articles from search results relating to his arrest for sexual solicitation of a minor over the Internet pursuant to the court order." That request was also denied, and no content was removed, Google said.
In another, Google received a request accompanying a court order from a CEO of a credit company requesting "we remove 333 search results for articles that suggested he was engaged in fraudulent business dealings." That, too, was denied, as the company deemed the court order was "irrelevant to the content in question."
Similarly detailed examples are listed for dozens of other countries.
Google said the majority of content that government authorities ask to have removed are blog posts, but search content and YouTube videos are also common requests. Some involve defamation as well as copyright infringement.
The examples Google lists stretch back as far as the period from July to December 2009. Other notable takedown requests include inquires from 20 countries regarding the controversialInnocence of Muslims video, which has been linked to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.
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