As part of its 'transparency report', Google on Monday said that it had received 101 content removal requests from Indian authorities between July and December last year, asking it to delete 255 items from its websites. Of these, just five requests were made by courts.
Google, which runs services like YouTube and Blogger apart from the widely used search engine, said the number marked an increase of 49% in such requests compared with January-June 2011 period. In terms of requests made by the government bodies excluding courts, India topped the list as it sent 96 requests to Google to remove content. However, in terms of number of items that governments wanted to remove, Brazil, US, UK, Germany and Spain were ahead of India.
According to the Google data, the company was asked to remove 130 items, including 77 videos on Youtube, because they were deemed defamatory. Another 25 items, including 24 videos, were considered hate speech. The interesting bit was that of these only 25 items - 23 on the blogs hosted by Google and two on other Google sites - were considered defamatory by a court.
"This is the fifth data set that we've released. And just like every other time before, we've been asked to takedown political speech," Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst wrote at the official Google blog. "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."
National security and piracy, touted as primary reasons by government officials behind the push for control on the web, didn't lead to many content removal requests in India. Google was told to remove only two items because of copyright reasons and only 10 videos on YouTube because they were considered a threat to national security. At the same time, the company was told to remove 22 items because of impersonation risk and seven items because the content was 'offensive' to religions. Also, requests were made to remove two videos from YouTube because they were too violent in nature and one item was deemed pornographic.
As far as removing the content was concerned, Google said it complied with 80% requests received from Indian courts. But for requests made by police or other government agencies, it complied in only 26% cases. "For the six months of data we're releasing today, we complied with an average of 65% of court orders, as opposed to 47% of more informal requests," wrote Chou.
While Google officials were not available to comment on Monday, in its earlier report the company had explained that it did not comply with all requests. "We received requests from (Indian) state and local law enforcement agencies to remove YouTube videos that displayed 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," the report said. "In addition, we received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 236 communities and profiles from Orkut that were critical of a local politician. We did not comply with this request, since the content did not violate our community standards or local law."
Between July and December, Google also received 2,207 requests from Indian authorities seeking access to user data. In total, these requests targeted 3,427 accounts/people. Google said it complied with 66% requests. The company had received 1,739 such requests in the first half of 2011.