eBrandz Blog

How does Google deal with ‘official’ content removal requests?

Google has complied with roughly two-thirds of the total requests to remove ‘undesired’ content that were made by the government authorities worldwide. Most technology and communications platforms get such requests from across the world to take out content from their services and also hand over user data. The relevant data tool of Google reveals the nature and number of requests it receives from different governments in a six-month reporting period.

For the six month period covering first half of the year 2011, for which details have just been released by the search engine major, a significant rise was recorded in the compliance rate from just about forty percent previously. According to the latest transparency report, there were over 750 items sought to be removed apart from 92 requests for content removal, a number much higher in comparison to the previous reporting period from different government agencies, bodies and courts.

They ask for removal of content for various reasons. Those often stated for removal range from copyright, privacy issues, security reasons and allegations of defamation. In addition, claims that content pages are illegal or unlawful, qualifying as hate speech and pornography were also there, prompting to delete the same.

The search giant is mostly protected owing to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that provides it with a safe-harbor provision (for ISPs) from being held liable in any way for copyright infringement. But it must take something down in order to comply with the act, especially after receiving a take-down notice for content that has been copyrighted. And this does place Google in position of being jury, judge and executioner of the legal provisions as it ought to make a determination of any alleged violation of copyright infringement.

Laws governing these issues differ from one country to another, and the requests mirror the legal context of a specific jurisdiction. Google releases this data to initiate discussions about the appropriate authority and scope of government requests, citing transparency as its core value around the information flow.

Following are the highlights as far as Government requests are concerned as publicized by Google:

  • China: Google received three requests to remove a total of 121 items from its services and removed ads that violated its AdWords policies in response to the two requests.
  • India: It got requests from the various state and local to remove YouTube videos, which showed protests against certain social leaders or contained offensive language about religious leaders. Google refused most requests, just locally restricting videos that seemed to violate local laws. In addition, it had a request to delete 236 communities and profiles from the Orkut service for being critical of a local politician. Google refused to comply.
  • United Kingdom: The number of requests for content removal went up by 71% in comparison to the previous reporting time period.
  • United States: It got a request to remove YouTube videos showing police brutality, though it did not remove the same. Separately, there were requests from many local law enforcement agencies for removal of allegedly defamatory videos. It didn’t comply with most of these requests. The number of requests went up significantly in comparison to the previous reporting period.