Police pay close attention to the videos posted on YouTube, owned by Google, and in the first six months of the year, asked Google to remove some videos law enforcement found offensive for various reasons.
The information is part of Google's "Transparency Report," done twice a year, in which Google shares basic information about requests from government agencies and courts in countries around the world seeking to remove content from Google, or asking it to turn over user data.
In the U.S., Google said the "number of content removal requests we received increased by 70 percent," and the number of user data requests increased by 29 percent, from January to June of this year, compared to the previous reporting period of July to December 2010.
"We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove," Google said in its report.
During the most recent six-month period in the U.S., Google said it had 5,950 government requests for "disclosure of user data from Google accounts or services." The search giant fully or "partially" complied with 93 percent of those requests.
"The number of requests we receive for user account information as part of criminal investigations has increased year after year," Google said in its report. "The increase isn’t surprising, since each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users."
In China, often Google's nemesis, YouTube was inaccessible during the reporting period, and the government made three requests to remove "a total of 121 items from our services," Google said.
We removed ads that violated our AdWords policies in response to two of those requests, but did not comply otherwise. We have withheld details about one request because we have reason to believe that the Chinese government has prohibited us from full disclosure.
We received requests from state and local law enforcement agencies to remove YouTube videos that displayed protests against social leaders or used offensive language in reference to religious leaders. We declined the majority of these requests and only locally restricted videos that appeared to violate local laws prohibiting speech that could incite enmity between communities. In addition, we received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 236 communities and profiles from orkut that were critical of a local politician. We did not comply with this request, since the content did not violate our Community Standards or local law.
We received two requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 225 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand's lèse-majesté law. We restricted Thai users from accessing 90 percent of the videos.
Google's Transparency Report is a fascinating, and sometimes frightening, reflection of governments' digital mindsets.
"We hope this tool will shine some light on the appropriate scope and authority of government requests to obtain user data around the globe," says Google.
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