Google reveals government censorship requests

Google has launched a tool that allows users to see how many censorship requests each of the world’s governments have made to the online search giant.

Between July and December 2009, the UK government made 59 requests for content to be removed from Google’s various sites, most of which related to content on its YouTube video sharing service, and with 76.3% of which Google ‘fully or partially’ complied.

This is more than the majority of world governments, but fewer than those of Brazil, Germany, India, the US and South Korea.

Google is unable to reveal how many censorship requests were made by the Chinese government, whose impositions on the company inspired its recent push towards greater transparency, because that number is itself considered a state secret.

“Government censorship of the web is growing rapidly,” wrote Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond yesterday, “from the outright blocking and filtering of sites, to court orders limiting access to information and legislation forcing companies to self-censor content.”

Drummond wrote the Google believes that providing greater transparency into government censorship will reduce its occurrence.

 “We hope this tool will shine some light on the scale and scope of government requests for censorship and data around the globe. We also hope that this is just the first step toward increased transparency about these actions across the technology and communications industries.”

The UK’s controversial Digital Economy Act, passed into law this month, contains a clause that would allow authorities to restrict public access to websites based on “any issues of national security raised by the Secretary of State”.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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