What do a YouTube video satirising Pakistan’s army, an article criticising the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, and a video of a Canadian citizen peeing on his passport have in common? They were all the objects of government requests to remove content from Google sites during the second half of 2011, says Google.
The company has just released its latest round of data, documenting demands made by governments to remove content from its sites or to turn over information about its users. Google, which began publishing this data as part of its Transparency Report in 2010, expressed concern as it noted that, for the fifth six-month period in a row, it has received requests from governments to remove political content. What’s more, the demands didn’t just come from countries with a traditionally poor press freedom record, but from Western democracies too.
“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different,” wrote Google’s Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou in a blog post about the data. “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.”