Asian countries such as China, India and Thailand were among those leading the disturbing trend of censoring internet content in the past year, a report by search giant Google shows.
Google’s transparency report for the July-December 2011 period caps the all-year report which is released in two six-month installments.
“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different... 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,” said Dorothy Chou, Google’s Senior Policy Analyst.
The United States is among the top censors, according to the report. There were court orders to remove 3,851 items and government orders to remove 2,341 items. The report does not show any details for China for the second semester of 2011. You may recall that Google chose to leave the country in reaction to its stifling regulatory environment. In the January –June 2011 period, however, China had made three requests to remove a total of 121 items. Google removed ads that violated its AdWords policies in response to two of those requests, but did not comply otherwise. YouTube is not accessible in China.
Court cases had pitted the Indian government against Google and Facebook over their content. The government had accused the two internet giants of failing to block "inappropriate" content and created new rules last year requiring Internet companies to remove objectionable content when requested.
In these court cases, Google is accused of hosting content that "seeks to create enmity, hatred, and communal violence," and not removing such objectionable content when notified.
According to Google, India had the largest number of government takedown requests that weren't court orders. Reasons for removals include allegations of defamation, perceived violations of local laws prohibiting hate speech or pornography.
In the July-December 2011 period, 246 items were asked to be removed in India. This is a 49% increase from the previous six-month reporting period. In the first semester of 2011, state and local law enforcement agencies in India asked Google to remove YouTube videos showing protests against social leaders or used offensive language in reference to religious leaders. “We declined the majority of these requests and only locally restricted videos that appeared to violate local laws prohibiting speech that could incite enmity between communities,” Google said.
Google was also asked to remove 236 communities and profiles from its sister service Orkut that were critical of a local Indian politician. “We did not comply with this request, since the content did not violate our Community Standards or local law,” Google said.
Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology asked Google to remove six YouTube videos satirizing the Pakistan Army and senior politicians. But Google did not comply with this request.
Between July and December 2011, Google received four requests from Thailand’s Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand's lèse-majesté law. Google said it restricted 70 per cent of these videos from view in Thailand in accordance with local law. In the January-July 2011 period, 225 YouTube videos were requested to be removed for allegedly insulting the monarchy. “We restricted Thai users from accessing more than 90% of the videos,” Google noted.
The past year also saw the first ever content removal requests from Sri Lanka.
What does all this portend for internet? Are we moving towards a more regulated world wide web? And in any case, how effective are these regulations? Do they succeed beyond temporarily halting publication of content, or achieve anything other than proving a political point?
|GOT A TIP? TELL US.||LIKE TO WRITE? contribute to TS.|
Write a blog about your startup, get 5 or more plugs and your startup will be featured here.
TigerStartups - Chicago, IL