Google recently announced that the United States and several other Western governments drastically increased the number of censorship requests during the second half of 2011. The most recent Google Transparency Report, which is Google’s fifth transparency report since 2009, indicates that the U.S. government has increased the number of censorship requests by an alarming 718%. Dorothy Chou, Google’s Senior Policy Analyst, wrote in a recent Google blog post that the trend indicates free expression is at risk:
“This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. And just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming, not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”
For the last three consecutive time periods reported, Google has substantially reduced the compliance rate relative to the number of requests received by the U.S. government:
July to December of 2010:
1,421 censorship requests with 87% removal
January to June of 2011:
757 censorship requests with 63% removal
July to December of 2011:
6,192 censorship requests with 42% removal
As the above numbers indicate, the percentage of requests that resulted in censorship dropped from 87% to 42% over an 18-month time period. Some of the recent content removal requests included the following:
• Google received court orders to remove 218 search results that linked to defamatory websites. However, Google only removed 25% of the web sites.
• A local law enforcement agency requested that Google remove a blog post that allegedly defamed a law enforcement official, but Google chose not to comply with the request.
• A separate law enforcement agency requested that Google remove 1,400 YouTube videos on the grounds of harassment, but Google did not comply with the request.
Do you think the increased number of censorship requests is merely due to the increasing amount of web content and government monitoring of such content? Or do you feel that the increasing number is an indication that freedom of speech is at risk?