A recent report from Google has revealed a worrying increase in the frequency of incidents of governments attempting to censor the internet. Since the company last published its bi-annual transparency report, this rise in requests has come from areas that you would not immediately associate with censorship – western democracies.
Spanish regulators are reported to have asked Google to remove 270 links to blogs and other articles that were critical of public figures – however Google did not comply. Meanwhile requests in Poland to remove an article critical of the Polish agency for enterprise development and a further eight results that linked to the article were not complied with either.
The company did agree with some requests, such as those from the UK police that saw Google remove five YouTube accounts allegedly promoting terrorism, and some requests from the US relating to alleged harassment of people on YouTube were also complied with.
But the underlying concern is the increasing trend of politically motivated requests. Writing on a blog, Google’s senior policy analyst, Dorothy Chou, said:
“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 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.”
In the last year Google has been much more compliant (97%) with requests to remove links and search results on the grounds of copyright infringement.
What are your thoughts on internet censorship? If someone is posting videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to make a bomb or attempt to inspire acts of terrorism then it is hard to argue that they shouldn’t be taken down. But if people are writing blogs and articles that are critical of ruling bodies and governments, aren’t they just exercising their right to free speech?