Government requests to remove content
We regularly receive requests from courts and government agencies around the world to remove information from Google products. Sometimes we receive court orders that don’t compel Google to take any action. Instead, they are submitted by an individual as support for a removal request. We closely review these requests to determine if content should be removed because it violates a law or our product policies. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive in six-month periods.
Removal requests by the numbers
Explore Requests from January to June 2014
Each reporting period, we highlight requests that are of public interest to provide a glimpse of the diverse range of content removal requests we receive.
Request: We received a request from a local councillor's office to remove a blog post claiming improper business dealings between a former state government leader, the local council, and a wind turbine company.
Outcome: We did not remove the blog post for reasons of public interest.
Request: We received a request from a public prosecutor asking us to remove a blog post about a judge involved in a corruption scheme.
Outcome: We did not remove the content, based on Marco Civil's disposition that a court order would be needed.
Request: We received a court order to remove content from Blogger and Web Search publishing comments criticizing a mayor.
Outcome: We removed 4 blog posts from blogspot.com.br and google.com.br after losing our appeal.
Request: We received a court order to remove an entire blog pointing out problems and opinions related to the government administration of a Brazilian city.
Outcome: We tried to narrow the order down, and locally blocked 25 specific posts mentioned in the complaint, however, we did not succeed and eventually had to block the entire blog in Brazil.
Request: We received two requests from the China Ministry of Public Security—one to remove a Google+ profile and another to remove a blog from Blogger—for published content allegedly created by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
Outcome: We removed both the Google+ profile and the blog for violation of Google+ and Blogger Content Policy.
Request: We received a request from the Minister of Justice of the Federal State Rheinland Pfalz to remove an image from Image Search on google.de depicting him as a supporter of Islamic Sharia law in Germany.
Outcome: We did not remove content.
Request: We received a request from an officer in the Indian Police Service to remove 9 search results linking to news articles that report on accusations of his sexual misconduct with a tribal woman.
Outcome: We did not remove the search results.
Request: We received a court order ruling for the removal of a Facebook post. The post criticized the President of the Court of Appeal of Palermo for rejecting a request to have Mr. Berlusconi as a witness in the trial of a politician accused of having mafia affiliations.
Outcome: The Postal and Communications Police provided Google with an amended copy of the order with a handwritten statement from the judge asking the Court Order to be served on Google Inc. We removed the Facebook URL from google.it.
Request: We received a request from the legal representatives of a police department to remove blog posts, Google+ posts, and other URLs from search results that allegedly defamed several officers with allegations of police brutality and sexual abuse. We were presented with a court order against the blogger in question that ruled in favor of the police department.
Outcome: We removed 18 of 23 requested URLs from google.nl.
Request: Russia's regional ISP Rostelecom informed us of a court decision ordering ISPs to block access to 2 blog posts containing religious speech for extremism.
Outcome: We removed both blog posts from the blogspot.ru domain.
Request: The MVD (Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs) requested removal of 8 Google Play apps referencing 3 entries in the Russian Federal List of Extremist Materials for 3 Islamic prayer books. These books are prohibited under the Russian Anti-Extremism law.
Outcome: We restricted access to the 8 apps in Russia.
Request: We received a request to remove a Spanish blog post that published emails linking a foreign government official to corruption allegations.
Outcome: We removed 19 posts from the blogspot.es domain but did not remove the remaining 77 URLs.
Request: We received a request to stop showing any search results for the query term “porn.”
Outcome: We did not remove any content.
Request: We received several copyright infringement notifications from the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs regarding user-made videos that spliced a "protect and serve" Ukrainian police commercial with cell phone footage of Ukrainian police abusing dissidents.
Outcome: We did not remove the video.
United Arab Emirates
Request: We received two requests from UAE authorities to remove two Google+ posts for violating Law no. 5 of 2012 regarding Prevention of IT crimes. The posts contained obscene language and political satire against members of the ruling family of the UAE.
Outcome: We removed the posts locally from the UAE.
Request: We received an order from a US court to remove copies and prevent future uploads of the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" film from Google servers based upon a claim of copyright infringement from an actress in the film.
Outcome: We removed more than 1,000 copies of this film from YouTube and 6 copies from Blogger in compliance with this order. We petitioned for a rehearing en banc in the Ninth Circuit. The en banc panel ruled in our favor, dissolving the prior order, and finding no basis for a claim of copyright infringement.
Request: We received a request from the United States Social Security Administration to remove an advertisement based on Section 1140 of the Social Security Act.
Outcome: We removed the ad in compliance with local law.
Request: We received a court order requesting removal of dozens of pages written by a blogger about a local state scandal involving state politicians.
Outcome: We did not remove the content.
Request: We received an order to block several blog posts and search query results in relation to a cyberstalking case.
Outcome: We discovered the court order was fraudulent. We reinstated the posts and search results.
Why governments request content removals
Governments ask us to remove or review content for many different reasons. For example, some requests allege defamation, while others claim that content violates local laws prohibiting hate speech or adult content. The laws surrounding these issues vary by country.
Since the launch of the Transparency Report in 2010, more than one-third of all government removal requests have cited defamation as a reason for removal.
From January to June 2014, 38% of government removal requests cited Defamation as a reason for removal, 18% cited Drug Abuse, and 10% cited Privacy and Security.
Government requests often target political content and government criticism. In attempts to remove political speech from our services, officials cite defamation, privacy, and even copyright laws.
How requests are made and processed
We receive content removal requests in a variety of ways and from all levels of government (e.g. court orders, written requests from national and local government agencies, and law enforcement professionals). Sometimes we'll be forwarded government removal requests from users, such as when someone attaches a court order showing certain content to be illegal.
Some requests ask for the removal of multiple pieces of content. Conversely, there may be multiple requests that ask for the removal of the same piece of content.
We always assess the legitimacy and completeness of a government request. In order for us to be able to properly evaluate a request, it must be made in writing, be as specific as possible about the content to be removed, and explain how the content is illegal.
There are many reasons why we might not remove content in response to a request. For example, some requests might not be specific enough for us to know what the government wants us to remove. In these cases, we ask for more information. Sometimes we don’t comply with requests because the content has already been removed by the content owner.
Sometimes we don’t comply with requests because they haven’t been made through appropriate channels. We ask for requests to be made in writing, rather than verbally. Sometimes written letters from agencies aren’t sufficient and a court order is necessary instead.
Products affected by requests
We most frequently receive government requests to remove content from Blogger, Search, and YouTube, although dozens of other products are also affected. Sometimes we even receive requests to remove content “from the Internet.”
Sometimes governments choose to disrupt Google products or services, rather than making requests to remove individual pieces of content.
From January to June 2014, the top three products for which governments requested removals were YouTube, Blogger, and Web Search. 1040, 837, and 790 removal requests were made for each product, respectively.
From January to June 2014, governments from around the world requested that we remove 4425 items from YouTube. Of these, we removed 1538 items—1212 due to legal reasons, and 326 found to be violations of YouTube's Community Guidelines.