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Google’s fraught relationships with China and India have inspired well-aired complaints of censorship in recent years, but a new report released Sunday suggests we needn’t look so far to find government meddling with the search giant.
In a blog post published late Sunday, Dorothy Chou, a senior policy analyst at Google, said there has been an "alarming" uptick in government requests to remove content from the search engine, particularly from "Western democracies not typically associated with censorship." There were 6,192 requests made by U.S. agencies alone over the final half of last year—a 718 percent increase over the first six months of 2011.
The bi-annual "Transparency Report" was launched by Google in 2010 in an effort to air government requests to the company from around the world. Chou wrote that a "troubling" trend has emerged: government entities seeking to remove content that reflects badly on them politically. She cited two particularly brash claims from Spain and Poland, which were not heeded, and noted that overall, the company complies with only 65 percent of court orders and 47 percent of "more informal" requests.
The latest report included a country-by-country breakdown of some of the more unusual government requests, including, in the United States, calls from "a local law enforcement agency to remove 1,400 YouTube videos" and a request to remove a blog criticizing a local police official. In Canada, the passport-issuing office requested Google remove a YouTube video featuring "a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet." Google rejected all of those requests.
Google said in the report that despite its concerns, the company expected the rise in Western government complaints to continue because "each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users." In the last six months of 2011, Bolivia, the Czech Republic, Jordan and Ukraine all filed their first-ever requests for content to be removed.