The Internet may have forever changed the way information is shared and consumed, but what hasn't changed is the fact that government agencies around the globe go to great efforts to censor certain data. Google, which now discloses government requests to remove certain links and YouTube videos, says that what it's seen over the past two years has been nothing short of "troubling."
"When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers," Google stated in a blog post. "We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not."
In particular, Google is concerned about the number of take down requests it receives over political speech.
"It's alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect -- Western democracies not typically associated with censorship," Google says.
Need examples? Google claims Spanish regulators in the last half year accounted for 270 search removal requests linking to blogs and newspaper articles referencing public figures such as mayors and public prosecutors. And in Poland, Google received a request from a public institution to censor certain links that criticized the establishment. All of these were denied.
Here in the U.S., Google says a law enforement agency requested that 1,400 YouTube videos be taken down due to alleged harrassment. The total number of content removal requests Google received in the past six months has more than doubled compared to the previous reporting period, the search company said.