Western democracies go mad trying to censor Google

Search engine Google has revealed how many take down notices it has received from government agencies lately.

The company said that it has received more than 1,000 requests from authorities to take down content from its search results or YouTube video in the last six months of 2011.

It slammed what it dubbed an alarming trend by governments to attempt to censor their citizens.

In its twice-yearly Transparency Report, Google said the requests were aimed at having some 12,000 items overall removed. It was a a quarter more than during the first half of last year and shows that governments are getting a taste for censorship.

Writing from her bog, Dorothy Chou, the search engine’s senior policy analyst, said that she hoped that the rise earlier in the year was a one off, but it turned out that it wasn’t.

Lots of the requests aimed to silence political speech and what is surprising is that they come from Western governments not typically associated with censorship, Chou said.

While Google did not list anything specific it did say that it was suprised by the Glorious British Empire and its former colony the United States is also spending a lot of time trying to censor pages. 

The US was particularly bad. Google moaned that police prosecutors, courts and other government agencies submitted 187 requests from July through December last year, more than doubling from 92 requests from January through June.

Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 links to blogs and newspaper articles criticising public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.

Google said no to that one and in March, Spain’s highest court asked the European Court of Justice to examine whether requests by citizens to have content removed were lawful.

In some countries, Google says it has no choice but to submit to these requests. This is because some types of political speech are unlawful.

In Germany, the company removes videos from YouTube with Nazi references because these are banned and in Thailand videos featuring the monarch with a seat over his head have been removed for being insulting.

But one take down came from Canada, where Google was asked by officials to get rid of a YouTube video showing a citizen having a nintendo on his passport and flushing it down the loo. That was another case where Google told the Canadians to bog off.