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Google: More government takedown requests than ever before

Between July and December 2012, the company received 2,285 government requests to remove more than 24,000 pieces of content from its search.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
A look at Google's takedown requests.
A look at Google's takedown requests. Google

Requests by governments worldwide to remove content from Google's services have hit an all-time high, according to the company.

Between July and December 2012, Google received 2,285 government requests for the removal of content on its services. In total, 24,179 pieces of content were asked to be removed by the government entities, setting a new record, according to Google. In the first half of 2012, Google received 1,811 requests to remove more than 18,000 pieces of content.

Google's release, which is part of the company's Transparency Report launched three years ago, indicates that attempts at political censorship are becoming an increasingly troublesome issue. The company says that many of the requests were court orders requesting the removal of negative opinions on government officials.

"In more places than ever, we've been asked by governments to remove political content that people post on our services," Google stated. "In this particular time period, we received court orders in several countries to remove blog posts criticizing government officials or their associates."

According to Google, the company saw a sharp increase in requests from Brazil, due to municipal elections that were held last fall in that country. Russia also requested many more takedowns, jumping from just six in the first half of 2012 to 114 in the second half. YouTube was the target for 20 countries asking Google to remove clips from the movie "Innocence of Muslims."

Google does not necessarily need to comply with the requests made by government entities to take down certain search results or videos. In a blog post last year, the company's chief legal officer, David Drummond, outlined how Google handles the requests. Here's a brief rundown:

  • Google scrutinizes the request carefully to make sure it's legal and complies with Google's policies. To consider complying, a request typically must be made in writing, signed by an authorized official, and issued under an appropriate law.
  • Google evaluates the scope of the request. If it's too broad, it may refuse to provide the information or seek to narrow the request. Drummond noted Google does this frequently.
  • Google notifies users about legal demand when appropriate. Sometimes it can't, either because it's legally prohibited or because it doesn't have a user's verified contact information.
  • Google requires that government agencies conducting criminal investigations use a search warrant to compel it to provide a user's search query information and private content stored in a Google account, like Gmail messages, documents, photos, and YouTube videos.

This story has been updated throughout the morning.