Data released by Google suggests that U.S. government censorship is on the rise – big time. From July to December 2011, Google’s Transparency Report indicates that U.S. agencies requested 6192 items be removed from Google services. That’s a 718 percent increase from the 757 items requested to be removed in the prior six-month period. Google fully or partially complied with 42 percent of the removal requests, according to the report.
Commenting on the report, Dorothy Chou, a senior policy analyst at Google writes:
"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.
For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn’t comply with either of these requests."
An increase of this magnitude is truly frightening.
More information on the requests is available here.