THE NUMBER OF REQUESTS from the government to remove content from Google's services has grown considerably over the past year, the search engine giant's latest Transparency Report has revealed.
Receiving 3,846 government requests to remove 24,737 pieces of content between January and June this year, Google's figures represent a 68 percent increase since the latter half of 2012.
"Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content," Google's Legal Director, Susan Infantino said in a blog post regarding the report's findings.
"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.
"These officials often cite defamation, privacy and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services."
Google noted that in this particular reporting period, it had received 93 requests to take down government criticism and removed content in response to less than one third of them.
The culprits responsible for the most requests were named by Google as Turkey and Russia.
While Google received 1,673 requests from Turkish authorities to remove content from its platforms – nearly a tenfold increase over the second half of last year – it received 257 removal requests from Russia, which is more than double the number of requests it received throughout 2012.
Meanwhile, the US government made 545 requests for the removal of 3,887 items, including one from a local law enforcement official to remove a search result linking to a news article about his record as an officer.
The UK doesn't seem so active in comparison, with Google flagging 117 requests for the removal of 556 items from its services. One was from a law firm requesting the removal of a preview from Google Books that allegedly defamed an MP, which Google removed. The other request was from a local government council to remove a blog post that allegedly defamed the council, which Google did not remove.
In April this year, Google reported receiving 2,285 government requests to remove 24,179 pieces of content from July to December 2012, an increase from the 1,811 requests to remove 18,070 pieces of content that it received during the first half of 2012. µ