Poof, it's gone: Google says it zapped content by request

Google complied with 87 percent of the content-removal requests made by federal agencies and U.S. courts in the last six months of 2010, the company said.

Google released its first Government Requests transparency report June 28, listing the number of requests for content removal it gets from governments around the world, the types of requests and percentage of compliance.

In the U.S., Google said it received 1,421 requests for content removal from government sources during that time. Most of those, 1,110 requests, involved defamation allegations in Google Groups related to a single family. Another 193 requests were related to YouTube videos, 77 involved Web comments and 39 involved blog comments. Google said it complied with 1,236 requests, including all of the defamation-related requests.

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“Like other technology and communications companies, Google regularly receives requests from government agencies and federal courts around the world to remove content from our services and hand over user data. Our Government Requests tool discloses the number of requests we receive from each government in six-month periods with certain limitations,” the report states.

Google said its compliance was zero percent during the six-month period for requests from Belgium, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore and Vietnam. The company complied 100 percent of the time with requests from more than a dozen other countries.

Some of the content removal requests are based on allegations of defamation, while others are due to allegations of hate speech or pornography. The laws surrounding these issues vary by geographic region. “We hope this tool will be helpful in discussions about the appropriate scope and authority of government requests,” Google said.

The company also released a traffic report on Web traffic in selected countries. The traffic report revealed instances of YouTube inaccessibility in Syria, Libya and a dozen other countries.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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