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Google sees more government takedown requests than ever, especially in Turkey

Google sees more government takedown requests than ever, especially in Turkey

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Government requests to remove content from Google continued to rise in the first half of this year, the company's transparency report shows. Data covering January to June of 2013 shows a total of 3,846 orders or requests from governments to remove information, covering 24,737 pieces of data worldwide. Numbers have been growing steadily since Google started publishing the report in 2010; in the last half of 2012, it received 2,289 requests to remove 24,191 blogs, videos, or other pieces of information.

Turkey's harsh online and offline crackdown on protestors in 2013 made it the most censorious country: courts and officials sent 1,673 takedowns of over 12,000 items, the largest number by far. Google says it ended up removing around 200 items from Google+, Blogger, Search, and YouTube. Russia's internet filtering law, which went into effect in late 2012, also pushed its numbers higher, with an increase of 125 percent since the last report and a total of 257 requests for 277 pieces of data; last year, it asked for only 114 takedowns. But in total requests, it didn't come close to topping the US, which sent 545 requests for 3,887 takedowns.

'Innocence of Muslims' fallout continued into 2013

The report breaks these numbers down into official court orders and executive or law enforcement requests, which adds another layer to the numbers: Russia, for example, sends vanishingly few court orders, while in the US, they make up the clear majority of requests. The reasons, likewise, vary. In some countries, an event or a new law is a major factor; in others, it's an ongoing tug of war between users and governments. Many of the requests that Google singles out for discussion involve officials or politicians attempting to get criticism or negative content about them removed: in Brazil, for example, various to remove a total of several hundred allegedly defamatory blogs that accused mayors, judges and officials of corruption and other offenses. Google says that nearly all of these claims were rejected. There was also continuing fallout from "Innocence of Muslims," a virulently anti-Islam YouTube film that Google has blocked in some countries after protests and court orders.

Upticks in bad behavior by netizens or suppression by governments isn't the only explanation for higher numbers: if Google's user base in a country increases, there's going to be more content to review and potentially take down. This takedown report is also separate from Google's related copyright report, which charts how many requests it gets from private copyright holders, and from its user data transparency report, which charts requests for account information as part of police or national security investigations — if you're worried about the NSA, you probably want to be over here.