In 2010, Google began publicly posting Transparency Reports. These reports detailed the number of government censorship requests Google received. Since then, the company has been publishing these reports every six months. The latest Transparency Report from Google shows an increase in government censorship requests.
Who's Requesting What?
Most of the requests that Google details come from Russian and Brazil. And most of the time, these requests are related to political postings. Certain countries do not want their citizens to post content that relates to political agendas or candidates, but Google isn't always willing to cooperate.
Google has appealed a number of these requests, asking governments to reconsider censorship demands. Google often states that the Internet is a place free from censorship, and that governments cannot ask the search giant to take down sites that are created by people expressing free speech. But, in some cases, requests are directly related to the law.
In Legal Matters, Google Is Powerless
If someone posts a video or website that is illegal to actually post, Google has to take that site down or restrict access to the site. A good example of this is the YouTube video 'Innocence of Muslims,' which gained a lot of press. A number of governments contacted Google after hearing about this video, and Google had to restrict access to people living in certain countries.
The video went against some governmental laws, so Google was relatively powerless to do anything about the censorship requests. Even though Google may be forced to take down a site now and then, the company is doing something to let the world know about censorship requests.
Google's Transparency Is Admirable
The mere fact that Google is letting the world know which countries are asking for site restriction and which matters are the most controversial is admirable. While Google can't always stop certain governments from shutting down site, the company can let the world know what's happening.
If you're wondering how the US ranks in all of this, US government censorship requests rose slightly from 273 six months ago to 321. This pales in comparison to the thousands of requests that other countries have been demanding. If the whole thing seems out of whack to you, you aren't alone.
Is Censorship Right?
We often think of the Internet as a place free from censorship. A place where we can speak our minds freely and without worry. But, the Internet is quickly becoming a powerful tool to spread all kinds of messages, both good and bad. It might seem strange or wrong for countries to censor sites, but it might also be necessary in some cases.
What do you think? Should governments have the power to tell Google to shut down various sites? Is censorship online something that's completely out of place? Or, are these censorship attempts entirely necessary in most (or some) situations? Sound off by commenting below, and let me know what you think of this drastic rise in censorship numbers. For now, these requests are not going anywhere, it seems.
*Photo: Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net