Number of content removal requests from the country up by 123 per cent

Are Indians allowed to use the Internet to criticise politicians and officials? If Google's latest ‘Transparency Report' is any indication, the police in some States don't seem to think so. In the last six months of 2010, law enforcement agencies across India asked the web search company to remove YouTube videos and a blog “that were critical of Chief Ministers and senior officials of different States.” Google says it did not comply with these requests.

In all, Google received 67 content removal requests from India between July and December 2010, covering a total of 282 items. Six of these requests were from courts and the rest from the executive, police and others.

The search engine said that 22 per cent of removal requests were fully or partially complied with, and the rest declined. It also received 1,699 “user data requests” from the government — euphemism for the police wanting a peek into the search and usage habits of targeted individuals — and complied with 79 per cent of these. However, no details were given.

Giving the break-up of the “content removal requests” from India, the search engine said that of the 50 requests for removal of items from its web search, 15 pertained to defamation and 16 to national security. It was requested to remove one item from Google Images and two from Google Profiles which pertained to pornography. From YouTube videos, the search engine got 199 removal requests.

A comparison of requests received by Google from other countries during the same period shows the number of content removal requests increased by 83 per cent from Argentina as compared to the previous reporting period.

While the number of user data removal requests from India increased by as much as 123 per cent, Australian requests went up by 72 per cent and Hong Kong's by 80 per cent.

From Italy, the search engine received a request from the Central Police for the removal of a YouTube video that criticised Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and simulated his assassination with a gun at the end of the video. Thailand asked Google to remove 43 pieces of content “because they were mocking or criticising the king in violation of Thai lèse-majesté laws.” The company restricted Thai users from accessing these videos.

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