June 18, 2012
“Today we’re releasing data showing government requests to remove blog posts or videos or hand over user information made from July to December 2011,” writes Dorothy Chou, Senior Policy Analyst.
Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. 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.
Chou notes that the increase in requests for takedowns and demands for user information are coming from so-called democracies.
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.
Google has complied with an inordinate number of these requests: 65% originating from court orders and 47% from “informal” government requests.
Chou writes “that the numbers we share can only provide a small window into what’s happening on the Web at large. But we do hope that by being transparent about these government requests, we can continue to contribute to the public debate about how government behaviors are shaping our Web.”
Considering the nature of government and its propensity to behave in a centralized and authoritarian fashion, the stats Google released on Sunday are hardly surprising. From CISPA, PIPA and SOPA to so-called “cybersecurity” measures, government is actively working to control the internet and impose numerous restrictions that will ultimately have a detrimental effect on speech and privacy.
In addition to forcing websites offline – as the government has done on numerous occasions, most notoriously in the case of MegaUpload – government has called for stripping the internet of its anonymity and forcing ID “tokens” on users and other control freak schemes. Government continually introduces draconian proposals designed to roll back the internet under the cover of copyright protection and to prevent a hyped-up terrorist and hacker threat.
As a prime example of this control freak mentality, consider a proposal floated by the FBI earlier this year. Shawn Henry, an FBI executive assistant director, suggested “changes in technology” to modify the internet to stop hacker attacks. Moreover, in February, the agency released a bulletin stating that efforts to protect online privacy should be considered suspicious, possibly even terrorist.
Here is another example: In November of 2011, the Justice Department told Congress it should have the ability to prosecute people who lie on the internet. It wanted to do this by making it illegal to breach the terms of service of websites.
The internet is now so threatening to government, the Pentagon considers it an enemy weapon system. In December, we pointed out that the NDAA contains language allowing the Pentagon to wage cyberwar on domestic enemies of the state. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” a military official warned in May of 2011. In the meantime, Pentagon contractors engage in dirty tricks against journalists and target social media in psychological operations.
Google understated the threat to individual liberty and freedom of speech – especially political speech – on the internet. If it had followed through and reached a conclusion, it would have stated that there is inordinate pressure by government to not only modify the internet, but to convert it into a corporatized surveillance device (an effort that is already far advanced).