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 July to December 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 an electoral court order to remove a Blogger blog post accusing several major news sources of manipulating the population.
Outcome: We removed the blog post from blogspot.com.br domain.
Request: We received a request on behalf of a man who had been involved in the investigation of an extortion plot with possible ties to Hezbollah, but was later acquitted. The request called for us to delist a number of news articles about the case from search results.
Outcome: We did not delist the URLs for reasons of public interest.
Request: We received a copyright removal request from Ecuador's Secretary of Communication to remove a YouTube video that contrasted a speech by President Rafael Correa—broadcast on state-owned television—with footage of police officers beating protesters.
Outcome: We did not remove the video.
Request: We received a third-party court order to delist a reputable news article from Google Search about a French businessman who was accused of running a fraudulent olive oil company and not properly compensating artisans. The court ruled the article defamatory, finding that the news source did not conduct its investigation into the facts with due diligence and used aggressive terms to describe the complainant.
Outcome: We delisted the link to the article from google.fr domain.
Request: We received a request from the Technology Crime Division of the Hong Kong Police Commercial Crime Bureau to remove a YouTube video that they claim disseminates a false message that Hong Kong Police assaulted a person under arrest in a police vehicle.
Outcome: We did not remove the video.
Request: We received a request from an Irish politician to delist reputable news articles from Google Search based on defamatory content claims. The content was not about the politician; rather, it concerned a convicted murderer who shared the same name.
Outcome: We did not delist the articles for reasons of public interest.
Request: We received a request from a government official in the Ministry of Justice to delist a WordPress blog post containing allegedly defamatory content from search results. The post harshly criticizes the official’s work on Israeli family law in the U.N. and other international law forums using defamatory language.
Outcome: We delisted the search result from the google.co.il domain.
Request: We received a request from a Police Chief Superintendent and former city police director to remove a YouTube video that made serious but seemingly broad and baseless allegations of corruption.
Outcome: We restricted the video from view in the Philippines.
Request: We received a request from Roscomnadzor to remove a Blogger blog post discussing jihad in Russia's North Caucasus regions.
Outcome: We removed the content from blogger.ru.
Request: We received two requests from the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family to remove or age-restrict a total of 5034 YouTube videos claimed to be harmful to youth.
Outcome: We age-restricted 4877 videos in South Korea.
Request: We received a copyright removal request from a government official regarding a picture of their city hall on a Blogger blog post criticizing the local administration.
Outcome: We did not remove the blog post.
United Arab Emirates
Request: We received a request from the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority to remove a blog and a blog post from Blogger on political slander about the government.
Outcome: We removed the blog post from the blogspot.ae domain per the country’s 2012 cybercrime law.
Request: We received a request from a former elected official in the United Kingdom to remove a Google Groups posting for alleged defamation. The posting restated the content of a Telegraph article about a finances scandal. The news article is still live.
Outcome: We did not remove the posting.
Request: We received a request from national authorities to remove an Islamic State propaganda video from Google Drive in accordance with national anti-terrorism laws.
Outcome: We removed the content in question for violation of the Google Drive program policies.
Request: An automotive company requested the removal of 12 Blogger blog posts from a self-proclaimed whistleblower related to safety and security of their products, citing attorney-client privilege.
Outcome: We pushed back on the request as the court order cited did not cover the specific blog posts in question.
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 July to December 2014, 33% of government removal requests cited Defamation as a reason for removal, 16% cited Drug Abuse, and 14% 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 July to December 2014, the top three products for which governments requested removals were YouTube, Blogger, and Web Search. 1036, 877, and 871 removal requests were made for each product, respectively.
From July to December 2014, governments from around the world requested that we remove 12343 items from YouTube. Of these, we removed 6061 items—1282 due to legal reasons, and 4779 found to be violations of YouTube's Community Guidelines.