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 2015
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 the Australian police asking us to block an image and an autocomplete prediction from Google Search that allegedly identified a participant in a court proceeding whose identity was meant to be confidential.
Outcome: We delisted the image and removed the autocomplete prediction from google.com.au.
Request: We received a court order to remove 106 URLs from Google Search and 30 Blogger URLs that were news reports about an operation involving the plaintiff, a male chief of police, who illegally searched a woman. In Brazil, women are to be searched only by female police.
Outcome: We delisted the URLs from google.com.br and removed the blog posts from the blogspot.com.br domain. The case was dismissed with prejudice and we reinstated the URLs to Search results and Blogger.
Request: The China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center (CIIRC) requested review of 20 Google+ profiles for Google+ policy violations, claiming the profiles impersonated the President of China, Xi Jinping.
Outcome: We removed 6 profiles that used the name and photo of the president for violating the Google+ User Content and Conduct Policy.
Request: Following a protest at Google Mumbai office regarding the appearance in Google Search of allegedly obscene and defamatory photos of Shri Balasaheb Thackrey, founder of the regional political party Shiv Sena, we received a request from police to delist pages containing the photos.
Outcome: We delisted the URLs from google.in under local obscenity laws.
Request: We received a request from a police detective to remove 2 results from Google Search containing harsh criticism about him, including claims about wrongfully obtained evidence and exceeding court-authorized search authority. The documents used allegedly defamatory terms to describe the complainant.
Outcome: We delisted one URL from google.co.il.
Request: We received a court order to remove content from Google Search that contained forum comments accusing a clerk supervisor of sexual harassment.
Outcome: We delisted 108 URLs from the google.co.jp domain per local defamation laws but did not delist the remaining 714 URLs.
Request: We received a request from the Tokyo Police Cyber Crime Division to remove 3 YouTube videos and 3 YouTube channels that allegedly belong to an individual wanted for several crimes, including inserting foreign objects in food items and shoplifting.
Outcome: We did not remove the videos or the channels.
Request: We received a court order on behalf of a Kenyan Internet solutions firm to delist from Google Search an allegedly defamatory article written by a notable social media activist and posted to his website.
Outcome: We delisted the content on google.co.ke pursuant to the court order.
Request: We received a request from a municipal president to remove a YouTube video that claims he was involved in corrupt activities.
Outcome: We did not remove the video.
Request: We received a request from Roskomnadzor to remove a Blogger post with news on attacks in Grozny.
Outcome: We forwarded the notice to the blog owner, who then removed the disputed content.
Request: We received an order from the Spanish Intellectual Property Commission to delist 2,457 Pirate Bay search results for copyright infringement. Most of the results were already blocked due to previous DMCA complaints.
Outcome: We delisted all the URLs from google.es.
Request: We received a court order to remove 1 Blogger post allegedly defaming the CEO of one of Turkey's largest media companies. The article links the plaintiff to a Twitter account leaking names of journalists that have been arrested for allegedly engineering a "coup d'état".
Outcome: We did not take any action.
Request: We received a court order from the state of New York where the government of Kazakhstan sued 100 unnamed individuals ("Does 1-100 Inclusive"). The lawsuit resulted in an order to remove Blogger content that appears to be political speech criticizing government officials. The order did not clearly specify the Blogger posts in question and was directed at the individuals, not Google.
Outcome: We pushed back for more information to request clarification on how the plaintiff attempted to serve 100 unnamed individuals with notice that they were facing legal action.
Request: We received a request from ITCERT (Ministry of National Defence) in Vietnam asking us to remove a Wikileaks-like blog from Blogger. The blog allegedly contained information about the military and criticized the government. ITCERT claimed the information on the blog was false and defamatory.
Outcome: We did not remove the blog.
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 2015, 31% of government removal requests cited Defamation as a reason for removal, 24% cited Drug Abuse, and 15% 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 2015, the top three products for which governments requested removals were Blogger, Web Search, and YouTube. 1011, 1011, and 661 removal requests were made for each product, respectively.
From January to June 2015, governments from around the world requested that we remove 6451 items from YouTube. Of these, we removed 5728 items—2090 due to legal reasons, and 3638 found to be violations of YouTube's Community Guidelines.