Google reports 68% jump in government takedown requests

Google(s goog) published an update to its semi-annual Transparency Report on Wednesday, and the latest figures show an ongoing increase in the efforts of governments around the world to remove content from services like Google Play and YouTube.

The new figures, which Google announced in a blog post, show that governments made 3,846 takedown requests in the first half of 2013, which is up from 2,285 requests in the previous six month period — a 68 percent increase. Overall, the requests targeted 24,737 pieces of content.

In the case of requests to remove content critical of a government, Google says it complied in only one third of the cases, but did not say how many times it refused overall. The company refers to the requests as “censorship” and cited:

“[A] worrying upward trend in the number of government requests, and underscores the importance of transparency around the processes governing such requests.”

The increase in this report appears tied to a spike in requests from Turkey, which demanded the most takedowns of any country (1,673). The second biggest number came from the United States (545), which was followed by Brazil, Russia and India.

Google Transparency Report

As usual, the report offers some interesting color about the nature of the takedown requests. For instance, Google reported that it removed 76 apps from the Google Play store after receiving repeated trademark requests from an agency of the US Government (the report doesn’t say which agency).

Other episodes include a request from a British Member of Parliament that forced Google to censor a preview page in Google Books, and a request from the government of Cyprus to remove names on Google Maps.

Overall, the report illustrates how governments around the world use a variety of legal tactics — from defamation to copyright to blasphemy laws — to remove content they don’t want the public to see.

The content portion of Google’s Transparency Report is just one part of the company’s increasingly sophisticated effort to show who is removing content from the agency. In another part of the report, now issued separately and the subject of a fierce court battle, Google shows how often governments demand data about its users.

Here’s a map of governments’ removal requests and reasons from last year’s report.