Google report significant rise in government takedown requests

The number of takedown requests Google receives from governments to remove political content from its services has jumped this year, according to the company's annual transparency report.

The report published yesterday covers the first half of 2013, noting every request that the internet giant receives from government agencies to take down material from the web.

In this period covered by the report, Google has received 3,846 government requests – 68 per cent more than the second half of 2012.

Susan Infantino, a legal director at Google, said in a blogpost: "Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content.

"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," she added.

Google reports that in the UK it complied with a request from a law firm representing an MP to remove a preview from Google Books that allegedly defamed their client. However, a request received from a local government council to remove a blog post that allegedly defamed the council was not adhered to.

"While the information we present in our transparency report is certainly not a comprehensive view of censorship online, it does demonstrate a worrying upward trend in the number of government requests, and underscores the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests," Infantino said.

"As we continue to add data, we hope it will become increasingly useful and informative in policy debates and decisions around the world."

The upward trend in government takedown requests mirrors that of the increasing number of requests by copyright holders to remove pages infringing copyright laws. In the first half of this year, Google received 100 million requests, double the amount it received for the whole of 2012.