US Makes Most Takedown Requests, Says Google

Google has released its biannual Global Transparency Report in which the search giant reveals takedown and user data requests from governments around the world. Notably, Western democracies made the most requests, with the US at the top of the list with 187 content removal requests. In fact, during the last six months of 2011, the US more than doubled its requests for search results, YouTube videos and content takedowns, for a total of 6192 items. Google complied with 42 percent of the US’s requests, a figure higher than that of other countries.

In those last six months of 2011, the US also made 37 percent more requests for private user data, up from from 5,950 in the same time frame of 2010. Google complied with 93 percent of requests.

Many of the other countries making numerous takedown requests are democracies: Germany asked to have 1,722 items removed; the United Kingdom, 847; Australia, 646; Brazil, 554; Spain, 307; India — which is the largest democracy in the world — 255;  Turkey, 174; Canada, 172. A handfull of requests were also submitted by Pakistan, PolandJordanBolivia and Ukraine.

Deborah Chou, a Google senior policy analyst, highlighted the upsurge in requests from democracies in a blog post:

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.

This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. And just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.

The US’s reasons for takedown requests varied: A local law enforcement agency asked to remove 1,400 YouTube videos for “alleged harassment”; Google did not comply with this, nor with a request from another local law enforcement agency to remove a blog post that allegedly defamed an official. But issued a court order to remove 218 search results linking to alleged defamatory websites, Google complied with about 25 percent of requests. In addition, after another local law enforcement agency requested that five user accounts that allegedly contained threatening and/or harassing content be removed, Google terminated four of the accounts and 300 videos were taken down (though 54 videos remained online).

UK police requested that Google remove five whole accounts for “allegedly promot[ing] terrorism.” Google did comply in this case and in response to most of the requests by Thai authorities to take down 149 videos insulting the monarchy, which is a crime under Thai law.

Google did not comply with Spanish officials’ request that 270 blogs and articles referring to public figures and other individuals be taken down; with a Polish public institution’s request to have a site removed that was critical of it; with Canada’s wanting to remove a video of a man urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet.

As CNET underscores, the figures do not reflect “censorship activity” from countries including China and Iran, which block Google.

Talking Points Memo underscored that it was “surprising” that Western democracies (the US in particular) made the most removal requests. Where there is freedom of speech, efforts to censor and regulate that speech are never too far afield.


Related Care2 Coverage

Microsoft Tops List of Google Takedown Requests

EU Tells Google To Remedy Antitrust Violations

Who Wanted Google To Remove Police Brutality Videos?

What Google’s Transparency Report Reveals

Photo by brion v


Vivianne Mosca-Clark

Not only does the government tract sites like goggle...they also watch the chats on the in line games. I play World of Warcraft and the government can check out the chats that people use in game. I just found this out recently. It was in the legal contract you have to sign before playing the game.

Claire M.
Claire M5 years ago

I googled my own real name recently and came up with petitions I had signed and reviews of purchases I had posted under a nick name. Hopefully I never have to try to get a job with a boss who has different political views than I do. I tried to get Google to stop publishing my real name attached to user data where it never should have been available in the first place but they keep deferring the responsibility to site admins, who's help desk keep deferring back to Google, who's only help is by reverse options that do not refer to my actual name that apparently is not personal info [silly me!].

At any rate there has been a lot of private admin removal of things like blogs that have been forcefully taken down with out going though Google over the last 5 years. Also of course as of last year the numbers would be high for Google after took over YouTube. I'm not sure what Google is trying to say but they and Facebook's idea of total population transparency instead of private business is a really bad idea.

Robert Ludwig
Robert Ludwig5 years ago

Generally, but not always, the only thing more foolish than trying to hold back the tide with your hands is trying to suppress information.

Patrick King
Patrick King5 years ago

I don't think that Google's point is 'they run the world.' Their point is that those who govern free democracies, whose rhetoric include freedom of speech, press and assembly, with increasing frequency attempt to impinge those rights to their citizens in an electronic age when people have a lot wider ability to express dissent. "You better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone..." --Bob Dylan

Randi Levin
Randi Levin5 years ago

Google has forgotten that they DO NOT RUN THE WORLD no matter how much they try too!

Get over it!

Micheal Moffat
Past Member 5 years ago

protect life, prosecute those that seek to destroy our shared home and our fellow beings
life has value beyond measure
Peace and Love
*********** WALL OF SHAME ************
┬┴┬┴┬┴ The Wall ┬┴┬┴┬┴┬┴┬┴
DEMOLISH ------>>>>> THIS WALL !!!!

Laurie T.
Laurie T5 years ago

I always did find it interesting that the very people who often scream out for the right to freedom of speech are the same ones who scream out "censor!!" There seems to be a flavor of "dictatorship" within governments, that tastes bitter and reeks of control over the masses. Now, which countries have the highest demand in takedown requests? I do hope I am wrong, but those takedown demands seem to be highest from those who repeatedly expose themselves to the public as education controllers and mass media propaganda pushers.

Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P5 years ago


Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

It's a fine line that Google must tread. Too much Big Brother or Too Little. ?