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November 14, 2012

Google says more countries asking for removal of web content

SAN FRANCISCO — Google says government requests to remove content from its search results and other services rose 71 percent in the first half of the year, according to a new report.

The owner of the world's largest search engine said there were 1,791 requests in the six months through June, up from 1,048 during the last six months of 2011, according to its Transparency Report. Turkey's government made 501 requests to remove content, up from 45 in the previous period, while the United States followed with 273, up from 187.

Google is under scrutiny from companies and governments around the world over what type of content it shows. Some countries are being more aggressive in seeking content removal from search results and sites such as video-sharing service YouTube. While the company may receive such requests, Google may choose not to comply, according to the report.

"We think it's important to shine a light on how government actions could affect our users," Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst at Google, said in the report. "The number of government requests to remove content from our services was largely flat from 2009 to 2011. But it's spiked in this reporting period."

In Turkey, the company received requests to take down content related to alleged criticism of the government, national identity and the republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, according to the report. Google also received petitions concerning blogs discussing minority independence and those that disclose details about the private lives of politicians. Turkey has in the past taken action against Google's YouTube and Internet service providers for such content.

In Germany, Google complied with a court order to remove eight search results that linked to sites allegedly defaming a politician's wife. In France, Google removed search results that allegedly violated the privacy of an individual because of a court order, the report said. Germany made 247 requests to remove content, up from 103, and France made 72, up from 31.

Google also said government surveillance is on the rise, with demands for user data increasing again in the first half of 2012. There were 20,938 requests for such information, up 15 percent from the second half of 2011.

The U.S. had the most user data requests at nearly 8,000, up 26 percent from the previous period. That was followed by India with 2,319 and Brazil with 1,566.

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