Google: Governments requests for removal of content

Google has found that both the number of requests, and the number of items asked to be removed by courts and governments have hit new highs

Courts and government agencies around the world regularly request that Google remove information from Google products, such as YouTube. 

The tech giant, Google, has issued its Content Removal Transparency Report for the first half of 2021, from January to June, and warned it has continued to see a rising trend in requests from governments, as they pass new laws to allow content to be removed.

Over the years, as the use of Google’s services has grown, the transparency report has shown a rise in the number of government demands for content removal – as to both the volume of requests that they receive and the number of individual items of content they are asked to remove. The most recent transparency report represents the highest volumes they have seen on both measures to date.

This report only includes demands made by governments and courts. Google report separately on requests by private actors under content-removal systems established by various governments such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the United States or the Right to be Forgotten included in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU.


Requesting the removal of content

The top number of requests came from Russia, followed by India, South Korea, and Turkey, with Pakistan, Brazil, the US, Australia, Vietnam, and Indonesia closing out the top ten.

In terms of the volume of items asked to be removed, Indonesia led the way thanks to a single request to have over 500,000 URLs removed in the archipelago for violating gambling laws. Google said it removed over 20,000 URLs and was reviewing the remainder.

In the United States with 404 requests, 45% of requests were related to defamation mainly in search results, followed by trademark-related requests most commonly on YouTube, and privacy and security reasons. For Australia with a new high of 392 requests, the standout reason was bullying and harassment which made up 80% of requests. Of those 315 requests, 261 were related to Gmail.

Defamation led the way in India's 1,332 requests relating to 28% of government requests, followed by impersonation on 26% which referred mainly to Google Play Apps pages.

"These laws vary by country and region, and require the removal of content on a very wide range of issues -- from hate speech to adult content and obscenity, to medical misinformation, to privacy and intellectual property violations," Google vice president of trust and safety David Graff wrote.

"While content removal and local representative laws are often associated with repressive regimes, they are increasingly not limited to such nations."


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