Google sees surge in requests to remove content
Alongside the Centre’s decision to withdraw special status to J&K under Article 370, passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Parliament and the subsequent onset of nationwide protests, the second half of 2019 saw the highest-ever requests by Indian authorities to remove content items from Google, mostly on YouTube, according to a report from the company.
Two-thirds of 7,029 items requested for removal from Google came from police forces, and a larger chunk than ever was for “national security” reasons, the company’s latest transparency report shows.
While “religious offense” and “national security” as reasons for content removal have been growing in the last couple of years, a third of these requests to Google were over alleged “defamation”, the largest cited reason for content removal (2,383 out of 7,029 requests for content takedowns).
Religious offence as a category first saw a huge spike in requests in the second half of 2018 (2,545 out of 5,922). It emerged as reason for 26 per cent — 1,868 out of 7,029 — of the requests last year.
“National security” — a category that had 542 requests in the second half of 2017 — had 1,318 listed content removal requests in the latter half of 2019, according to Google’s report.
In that period, Google did not comply with more than half the requests from police and most of the company’s non-complaiance was because there was “not enough information”, the transparency report stated. The vast majority (6,472 out of 7,029) of these items that the authorities wanted removed were on YouTube. With 4,422 items requested for removal in the first half of 2019, Indian authorities in all requested for 11,451 content pieces to be removed from Google. In contrast, content removal requests to Facebook seem to have taken a dip in 2019 — to 2,091 (down from 19,237 in 2018).
Together, Google and Facebook saw 13,542 items requested for removal.
However, Facebook received far more requests for user information than Google. Last year, the company received requests for information on 72,988 accounts, according to Facebook’s trans-parency report. The number of requests from the authorities to Google for user information has also increased over the years.
The authorities are also resorting to larger bulk requests to the Internet giant for content removal. While requests on average would target 45 items since 2009, last year saw fewer requests (790), but they were on average requesting removal of 80 items. Since 2009, Indian authorities have sent Google over 8,200 removal requests with over 43,000 items.