Google has reportedly received over 1,000 requests from authorities to remove web content from Google Search results between August and Decemeber of 2011, according to a report released June 18th. Since they started monitoring and tracking data on private and government-issued takedown requests as part of the Google Transparency Report two years ago, Google has monitored trends in an attempt to better understand the impact of the internet on private organizations and federal agencies.
“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different,” said Google’s senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou in the report’s official release. “We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.”
United States Accounts For Almost Half of All Content Takedown Requests
These “troubling” trends are detailed in the report’s statistics. Authorities and government agencies have collectively requested that more than 12,000 items be removed from Google search results—a 25% increase from the first six months of 2011. Official reasoning for each takedown is not made public, but the reasons for these requests fall anywhere from the results of criminal indictments or illicit activities online, to blatant attempts to “censor” sensitive political content.
The United States ranked first out of all documented nations of the world in overall items requested for removal, and contributed to almost half of the total requested items tracked by Google. Google complied with 44% of “Other Requests” from US executive, police, and other federal agencies, and only 40% of US court-ordered takedown requests—both percentages fall below the international average compliance rate.
Google Doesn’t Purposefully Defy The Government
According to the Transparency Report FAQ, “Some requests may not be specific enough for us to know what the government wanted us to remove (for example, no URL is listed in the request), and others involve allegations of defamation through informal letters from government agencies rather than court orders.”
What This Means for Internet Reputation Management
Google’s Transparency Report tells us in the reputation management industry that they are cracking down on offensive and libelous content on their own terms. This does not mean that they will comply with the government 100% of the time, as US statistics clearly show. This does mean, however, that Google is more sensitive to carefully identified and thoroughly investigated takedown requests.
We deal in “cleaning up” defamation and slander online, and there are legal precedents behind our methods that Google recognizes and will honor. If you feel that your reputation is being attacked online, contact us today—we help you understand your rights as a victim and know how to work with Google and other online services to repair your good name.