Posted on June 23, 2012 · Posted in Search Engines

According to the latest transparency report that Google released, the government demands to eradicate political content from search results are startling, as, free expression may be at risk now.

Twice a year, Google provides information about government requests for removing search content and getting access to users’ private data for the process of developing their Transparency report. Presenting a total of 467 court orders and 561 other police and executives requests, this report was brought out, containing data for the period of December to July 2011. The report cited requests to eliminate almost 12,000 pieces of content from the search index. In addition, governments sent over 18,000 requests for obtaining access to the personal data of 28,562 users all over the world.

Dorothy Chou, a senior policy analyst at Google, said that not only were these requests alarming because they put free expression at risk, but Google also received requests from countries they didn’t expect. In the last year, Google received requests from Spanish regulators to remove 270 search results related to blogs and articles in newspapers, mentioning individuals and public figures, including mayors and public DAs. In Poland, it received an application from a public institution to take down a link to a website that criticized it.

In an event mentioned in the report, a U.S. law enforcement agency requested Google to remove a blog that allegedly slandered a law enforcement official personally. Google, however, did not comply with this request. In another section, a separate law execution group demanded Google to dismantle 1,400 YouTube videos because of alleged harassment.

Google only fulfilled 42% of the removal demands for the United States in the last year, as the report cites. It complied with the U.S based requests more often, than with requests from other countries, partially complying with only 24% of requests from Canada, 44% from France and 64% from the United Kingdom. The company also added that it evaluates each request to make sure that it conforms to both the spirit and the letter of the law.

Tech columnist at, Andy Greenberg, writes that Google should be commended for taking a strong stance against the unfair requests of censorship. He added that Google has been assessed and criticized for failing to disclose much about its partnership with the National Security Agency. He further revealed that the company has yet to take a standpoint on the House’s recently-passed Cyber Infrastructure Security and Protection Act in the Senate, which is designed to provide companies far more flexibility to fork over the data to government agencies for security purposes.

Google planned to be in partial compliance to these requests. For example, in the United States, it received a court order to take down 218 search results, which it partially obeyed by removing 25 percent of the results quoted in the request. The company also obtained a request to eliminate 70 YouTube videos for infraction the German Children and Young Person’s Act. However, instead of removing them, Google constrained the viewing of these videos in Germany.