In its biannual report Google announced on Monday that the company is seeing an alarming number of censorship requests. Unlike China, Iran and other censor friendly countries the world’s largest search platform says the requests are being delivered by Western democracy’s and other regions where censorship requests have not typically been a priority.
Google received 1,007 requests in the last year and complied with just over half of them. Google says it received 461 court orders demanding the removal of YouTube videos and another 546 requests that included paperwork from local police. The report specifically avoided countries like China and Iran because they directly control search results through filtering.
Among its cases was a request from Polish officials to remove a search result linking to an article that criticized the country, a request Google refused. Google officials also refused a Canadian government request to remove a YouTube video in which a citizen is seen urinating on his passport and then flushing it down the toilet. In Spain regulators tried to remove 270 links to blogs and newspaper articles critical of public figures.
Google doesn’t deny all requests, far from it, in Thailand it is illegal to insult the monarchy under its lèse-majesté law and therefore Google complied with 70% of the requests made by local government in that region. Google also removed five YouTube videos after British officials claimed they were promoting terrorism.
In the United States granted removal requests occur most often when local authorities ask for content removal based on the harassment of another person.
A senior policy analyst at Google says of the requests the company is receiving from democratic countries:
“It’s really troubling because there’s a lot of instances of political speech that governments are asking us to remove, which we find really alarming. It’s a consistent problem. It’s getting to be countries that we really don’t expect.”