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

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Explore Requests from July to December 2013

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Each reporting period, we receive a number of requests that are of public interest, such as the first time we receive a removal request from a particular country, or a particularly high volume of items for removal, or requests to remove content that is critical of government officials.

Australia

Request: We received a request from a police officer to remove two news articles from search results about a police shooting of a young man.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request because we were unable to precisely identify the offending content in the articles.

Brazil

Request: We received an order from a Brazilian court to remove one search result linking to a news article about a police investigation into corruption that allegedly involves a judge.

Outcome: We appealed to the Superior Court of Justice, which confirmed that we have no obligation to remove any content as Google is only an index.

Brazil

Request: We received a court order to remove one blog post for allegedly accusing a congressman of nepotism.

Outcome: We removed the blog post from blogspot.com.br.

Brazil

Request: We received a court order to remove a YouTube video that contained allegedly defamatory claims about the practices of a funeral home.

Outcome: We restricted the video from view in Brazil.

Brazil

Request: We received an order from a Brazilian court to remove 14 blog posts for publishing allegedly defamatory information accusing a judge of corruption.

Outcome: We removed 10 blog posts from blogspot.com.br, but did not remove four posts for which we were not provided complete URLs.

Colombia

Request: We received a request from the Colombian National Police to remove a blog for accusations of corruption in their high command.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request for reasons of public interest.

India

Request: We received a request from a representative for a general elections candidate to remove a YouTube video that allegedly associated him with corrupt financial practices.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request because it did not go through proper legal channels.

India

Request: We received a request from the police to remove a search result that replaced the police logo "Truth Alone Triumphs" with "Bribe alone Triumphs."

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request because it did not go through proper legal channels.

India

Request: We received a request from the police to remove a blogpost per local obscenity laws that contained content about a politician's sex scandal, including photographs.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request as the subjects of the blogpost were not identifiable.

Ireland

Request: We received a request from a government official to remove a search result linking to a state-run newspaper article that reported on the official being charged in a U.S. court for battery.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request.

Kosovo

Request: For the first time ever, we received a government request from Kosovo. Law enforcement requested the removal of two YouTube videos showing minors fighting.

Outcome: We had already removed the videos for violating our Community Guidelines before we received the government request.

Monaco

Request: We received a request from the legal representatives of a member of the royal family to remove 30 blog posts containing images that allegedly violated her privacy.

Outcome: We removed all blog posts from blogspot.fr domain.

Philippines

Request: We received a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation to remove five YouTube videos for allegedly associating an individual at the Philippine Department of Finance with financial misconduct.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request and requested more information.

Russia

Request: We received a request from the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications to remove a YouTube video showing a historical reenactment of the self immolation of a Buddhist monk as a form of protest.

Outcome: We restricted the video from view in Russia because the video allegedly violates the Russian Federal Law on Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development for apparent promotion of suicide.

Russia

Request: We received a request from The Ministry of Internal Affairs to remove eight Play Store apps based on the Fortress of the Muslim, a Muslim prayer book. The book was found extremist and added to the Russian Federal List of Extremist Materials.

Outcome: We restricted access to the eight apps in Russia.

Russia

Request: We received a request from the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications to remove a blog post containing only the text, "got chocolate?" This allegedly violates the Federal Law On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development, also known as the "blacklist law."

Outcome: As "chocolate" in the Russian language can also reference a recreational drug, we removed the blog post from the blogspot.ru domain due to a clause in the law that requires removal of drug-related content.

Russia

Request: We received a request from the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications to remove a YouTube video documentary about suicide. The video description encourages people to get help.

Outcome: We restricted the video from view in Russia because the video allegedly violates the Russian Federal Law on Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development for promotion of suicide and descriptions of ways to commit a suicide.

Spain

Request: We received an order from a court in Spain to remove a blog post accusing judges of corruption and abuse of power. The order was issued by a court in the same city and regional court system as the judges accused of corruption in the blog.

Outcome: We removed the blog post from the blogspot.es domain.

Thailand

Request: We received a request from a member of the Royal Thai Parliament to remove a search result linking to a news article allegedly defaming that member of parliament.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request for reasons of public interest.

Thailand

Request: We received two requests from the Thai Ministry of Communication, Information and Technology (MICT) to remove 298 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the Thai royal family.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this because the request was for global removals.

Turkey

Request: We received a request from a government agency to remove a YouTube video containing a survey of protesters at the Gezi Park demonstrations. The survey asked questions about the protestors’ political aims, their reason for protesting, and what caused them to join the protest.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request for reasons of public interest.

Turkey

Request: We received a court order from a governor to remove 195 URLs hosted on Blogger.

Outcome: We did not remove any content because the order did not specify the URLs in question.

Turkey

Request: We received a request from the legal representatives of a media tycoon to remove eight blog posts based on an old court order for unjust violation of personal rights.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request as the content requested for removal was not within the scope of the court order.

Turkey

Request: We received a court order from a Commander in the Turkish Army requesting the removal of nine blog posts for alleged defamation.

Outcome: We removed eight blog posts from the blogspot.com.tr domain and did not remove one as we were unable to locate the defamatory content in question.

Turkey

Request: We received a request from a government agency to remove one blog post which accused a Turkish government official of bribery and fraud.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request for reasons of public interest.

Turkey

Request: We received 57 requests from the Telecommunications Communications Presidency of the Information and Communications Technologies Authority regarding 22 blog posts and 162 videos that allegedly made defamatory claims about Ataturk.

Outcome: We restricted 150 videos from view in Turkey and did not remove 11 videos and 22 blog posts because we were unable to identify the offending content. One video was deleted by the uploader.

United States

Request: We received a request accompanying a third-party court order by a CEO of a credit company who requested we remove 333 search results for articles that suggested he was engaged in fraudulent business dealings.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to the request as the court order was irrelevant to the content in question.

United States

Request: We received a third-party court order forwarded by a Tampa pharmacist asking us to remove two news articles from search results relating to his arrest for sexual solicitation of a minor over the internet pursuant to the court order.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to the order.

United States

Request: We received a request from the Georgia Department of Corrections to remove a YouTube video depicting alleged abuse of inmates. The department requested the video be removed due to its violent nature.

Outcome: We did not remove content in response to this request as the video did not violate YouTube Community Guidelines.

Why governments request content removals

Examples of requests that we encounter

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.

 

In the second half of 2013, 38% of government removal requests cited defamation as a reason for removal, 16% cited obscenity or nudity, and 11% cited privacy or 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.

From time to time, we receive forged court orders. We examine the legitimacy of every document we receive, and if we determine that a court order is false, we won’t comply.

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.

In the second half of 2013, governments from around the world requested that we remove 2,199 items from YouTube. Of these, we removed 973 items—735 due to legal reasons, and 238 found to be violations of YouTube’s Community Guidelines.