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More governments ask Google to remove political content

Government requests to remove content across Google products spiked sharply in the second half of 2012, particularly those that covered political content, the search giant revealed.

Between July and December 2012, Google received 2,285 government requests to remove 24,179 pieces of content, up from the 1,811 requests made regarding 18,070 during the first half of 2012.

"As we've gathered and released more data over time, it's become increasingly clear that the scope of government attempts to censor content on Google services has grown," Susan Infantino, Google's legal director, wrote in a blog post.

"In more places than ever, we've been asked by governments to remove political content that people post on our services," she said.

Of note was the increased number of requests coming from Brazil, which held its municipal elections in Autumn. Google handled 697 requests to remove content in the second half of the year, 640 of which were court orders. That means "we received an average of 3.5 court orders per day during this time period," Infantino wrote - up from the 191 requests it fielded during the first half of the year.

"Nearly half of the total requests—316 to be exact—called for the removal of 756 pieces of content related to alleged violations of the Brazilian Electoral Code, which forbids defamation and commentary that offends candidates," she wrote. "We're appealing many of these cases, on the basis that the content is protected by freedom of expression under the Brazilian Constitution."

Google also saw an uptick in requests from Russia following the implementation of a law that allows a Russian regulatory agency known as Roskomnadzor to blacklist "illegal" websites pedaling suicide, drug use, "extremist" propaganda, or other content contrary to the Russian government.

In the first half of 2012, Google only received six takedown requests from Russia, but that jumped to 114 in the second half, all of which cited the new law.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims continued last year, with 20 countries asking Google to remove YouTube clips of the movie.

"While the videos were within our Community Guidelines, we restricted videos from view in several countries in accordance with local law after receiving formal legal complaints," Infantino said. "We also temporarily restricted videos from view in Egypt and Libya due to the particularly difficult circumstances there."

This is the seventh time Google has released information about government takedown requests. The data includes a few updates, including a breakdown of whether YouTube videos were removed because of local laws or because they violated community guidelines. Google also refreshed its traffic site, making it easier to see where services have been disrupted around the globe, and for how long.