Google says Transparency Report results "alarming"; YouTube forced to delete 'terror' videos at request of UK police

Google's latest Transparency Report has again drawn attention to attempts by western governments and their agencies to censor politically sensitive Internet content.

In an official blog post, the search giant highlighted specific incidences where regulators in Spain and Poland had requested the removal of links directing to content critical of public figures and institutions.

"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," wrote Dorothy Chou, a Senior Policy Analyst.

She added that Google had denied those particular requests.

In the UK, takedown appeals were headlined by the deletion of five YouTube user accounts and 640 videos at the behest of the Association of Police Officers, who alleged that the material glorified terrorism.

Government agencies, courts, and copyright owners can all apply to Google to release user data or delete illegal material. The web behemoth says it examines each case individually, taking into account local laws and context.

In Thailand, for example, Google complied with most requests to remove content deemed to insult the country's monarchy, as legislation exists criminalising such actions.

One particularly amusing flashpoint came from Canada, where a passport issuing office requested the deletion of a YouTube video that depicted a man urinating on his citizenship document and then flushing it down the toilet. Google did not comply.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its geographic reach and population, the US topped the list of user data requests made to the Mountain View company with over 6,300 applications, 90 per cent of which were at least partly granted. By way of contrast, only 40 per cent of content removal requests were granted in America.

The Transparency Report also provides data for copyright infringement cases.