The UK police had Google delete 640 YouTube videos that allegedly glorified terrorism last year, the company has revealed.
The revelation that the UK Association of Police Officers (ACPO) requested the deletion of the videos came as part of Google's latest Transparency Report, which tracks government and copyright-related takedown requests received by the web giant, on Monday.
The UK police asked Google to delete 640 YouTube videos that allegedly glorified terrorism last year, the web giant has revealed in its latest Transparency Report. Image credit: Shutterstock
ACPO's request related to five specific YouTube user accounts, which Google terminated.
The number of takedown requests from UK authorities was actually down in the period covered by the newly-released dataset, July-December 2011. During that period, there were 49 content removal requests, down from 65 in the previous six months.
The latest Transparency Report also showed the number of official requests for user information to be rising in the UK — 1,455 in July-December 2011, up 14 percent from 1,279 in the previous six months.
However, Google noted that "the increase isn't surprising, since each year we offer more products and services, and we have a larger number of users".
Although the UK is not implicated in this, Google did express concern over some takedown requests it has been receiving. The company said there was now a definite trend of governments and officials trying to have content removed on political rather than legal grounds.
"When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers," Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou wrote in a blog post. "We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it's not."
"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 added.
Requests for deletion
The policy analyst highlighted a few examples of requests it had rejected: a Polish Agency for Enterprise Development request that wanted a site delinked because it criticised the institution, a plea by the Passport Canada office to have a YouTube video removed that showed a Canadian urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet, and a request from the Pakistani government to have six YouTube videos removed that satirised the army and politicians.
However, Chou also noted that Google had refused a request from the Spanish data protection authority "to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and sites referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors ".
"The Spanish Data Protection Authority also ordered the removal of three blogs published on Blogger and three videos hosted on YouTube," Chou said.
Spain's data protection regulators have been locking horns with Google over the so-called right to be forgotten, an issue that the European Commission is trying to address with new legislation. However, Spain has been pushing the matter independently.
Spain's highest court asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in March to rule on the matter, which involves people wanting old information about them taken down from the web.
ZDNet UK understands that the more recent Spanish takedown requests were based on a 'right to be forgotten', although some involved the requested takedown of links to journalistic articles — a type of content that would be exempted from the proposed EU legislation.