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Want To Deface Your Passport? Google's Got Your Back Want To Deface Your Passport? Google's Got Your Back

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Technology / TECHNOLOGY

Want To Deface Your Passport? Google's Got Your Back

photo of Josh Smith
June 18, 2012

Google is rejecting a growing number of government requests to remove online content, including in one case, a video of a Canadian defacing his passport, the Internet giant reported on Monday.

The company fielded more than 1,000 court orders and other requests from governments around the world in the last half of 2011, according to new numbers from Google. The numbers don't include countries such as China and Iran that censor content without asking Google.

In Canada, passport authorities asked Google to remove a YouTube video of a Canadian citizen “urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet.” Google refused to comply.

 

The case is only one of many reported by Google in its pushback against a growing tide of government requests.

In the United States, Google said that the number of government requests increased more than 100 percent over the previous six months. U.S. officials asked that more than 6,000 items be removed in the last half of 2011, compared with less than 700 in the first six months of the year.

In the U.S., Google said it complied with 40 percent of court orders and 44 percent of other requests, a lower compliance rate than with requests from other countries.

The Internet company said it rejected, for example, a request from local American police departments to take down a allegedly defamatory blog post; as well as 1,400 YouTube videos for alleged harassment.

“When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers,” Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou wrote in a blog post. “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.”

Overall, Chou said that Google complied with 65 percent of the court orders it received, but only 47 percent of the more-informal requests.

“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,” she wrote.

Among the requests that Google refused to comply with were a request by Spanish authorities to remove links to articles and blogs about public figures; and a request by a Polish officials to remove a link to an article critical of an agency.

Google reported requests from more than 60 countries, including Bolivia, Ukraine, Jordan, and the Czech Republic for the first time.

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