Google reveals 'terrorism video' removals

Updated on: 2012-06-17 || Source: bbc.com

Google has revealed it removed about 640 videos from YouTube that allegedly promoted terrorism over the second half of 2011 after complaints from the UK's Association of Police Officers.

The news was contained in its latest Transparency Report which discloses requests by international authorities to remove or hand over material.

The firm said it terminated five accounts linked to the suspect videos.

However, the firm said it had rejected many other state's requests for action.

Canada's Passport Office was among the organisations rebuffed. It had asked for a video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and then flushing it down the toilet be removed.

Google also refused to delete six YouTube videos that satirised Pakistan's army and senior politicians. The order had come from the government of Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology.

Free speech

But Google did act in hundreds of cases, including:

  • requests to block more than 100 YouTube videos in Thailand that allegedly insulted its monarchy - a crime in the country
  • the removal of a YouTube video that contained hate speech that had been posted in Turkey
  • the termination of four YouTube accounts responsible for videos that allegedly contained threatening and harassing content after complaints by different US law enforcement agencies.

Overall, the firm said it had received 461 court orders covering a total of 6,989 items between July and December 2011. It said it had complied with 68% of the orders.

It added that it had received a further 546 informal requests covering 4,925 items, of which it had agreed to 43% of the cases.

Google's senior policy analyst, Dorothy Chou, said the company was concerned by the amount of requests that had been linked to 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," she said.

"For example, in the second half of last year, Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.

"In Poland, we received a request from the Agency for Enterprise Development to remove links to a site that criticised it.

"We didn't comply with either of these requests."

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