Aus asks Google to take down more content

The number of items that Australian law enforcement and government agencies have requested Google to take down in the last six months have skyrocketed, but their success rate is at an all time low, according to the internet giant's latest statistics.

The number of items that Australian law enforcement and government agencies have requested Google to take down in the last six months have skyrocketed, but their success rate is at an all time low, according to the internet giant's latest statistics.

Google's statistics for Australia
(Screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

The latest Transparency report, published by Google today, reveals that in the six months, between July and December 2011, the Australian government requested the removal of 646 items from Google's web search, YouTube, Blogger, Google Maps and StreetView products.

This is a massive increase from the 10 items requested in the prior six-month period.

All 646 items came from 17 separate requests from law enforcement, court order or government agencies. Google complied with 45 per cent of the 11 requests that came from police or government agencies, but complied with only 17 per cent of the six removal requests from court order.

The statistics point out that the vast majority of these requests (633) were items in Google's search results, which the government requested to be removed for "privacy and security" reasons. Just two were related to defamation issues. Four requests came via a court order, with three requested by the police.

The total number of items that Australia had asked to be removed was higher than all other countries in the world, apart from the United States and Germany. However, the items came from only 17 separate requests, for which Australia was in 11th place globally.

The United States, by comparison, saw a rise in the number of requests by 103 per cent in the same six month period, reaching to 187 requests for the removal of a total of 6192 items. Google complied with 42 per cent of these requests.

In a blog accompanying the release of the data today, Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou noted that government agencies across the board are increasing their demands for the removal of political content.

"This is the fifth data set that we've released. And, just like every other time before, we've been asked to take down 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."

Chou said Spanish regulators requested the removal of 270 search results linking to blogs and news articles mentioning public figures, which Google refused to comply with. In the US, the company also received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove a blog, because a post allegedly defamed a law enforcement official, which Google also did not comply with. Another request, by another agency, asked for the termination of five YouTube accounts due to harassing content, which resulted in four accounts being terminated and the removal of 300 videos.