Google Transparency Report


We were expecting Google to tell us about the dictatorships that try to have things yanked from its sites. But our own Canadian government agencies ? Google's latest Transparency Report points to troubling trends in Western democracy.

Part Two of The Current

Google Transparency Report - Panel

China, Iran, North Korea... those are the countries that come to mind when thinking of government censorship of the web. But a new report from Google suggests you don't need to be autocratic to demand something be taken down from the 'net.

From July to December of last year, Google says it received more than 1,000 requests from governments to remove more than 12,000 items from Google and Youtube, which it also owns. And the company specifically noted an alarming threat to free expression coming from the West. The United States, especially. But even from the True North Strong and Free.

During that six-month period, Canada asked for 162 items to be taken down. In about half the cases, Google fully or partially complied. Mostly, the removals were related to defamation or privacy. But there were a few unorthodox requests.

We aired a clip of a reading with some of Google's most notable worldwide content removal requests from the report.

Google has publicly released these government content removal requests for the past few years. But some people argue the company can do more to protect internet freedom. Right now, Google automatically removes any content that does not follow it's own content policies... like hate speech and child pornography. But when it comes to government removal requests, Google only pulls down content that violates the country's local laws... whatever they may be.

Ron Deibert is one of Canada's foremost experts on attempts to censor the Internet and an advocate for openness and democracy online. He's the Director of The Citizen Lab and Canada Centre at Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Ron Deibert joined us in Toronto. And Scott Edwards has been writing about the Google Transparency report but from a human rights perspective. He's with Amnesty International's Policy and Research Department in Washington D.C.

We should note that we did try to get the federal government's response to Canada's showing in this latest Google Transparency report. But we did not hear back from the Prime Minister's office and the Passport Office - which requested that Google remove a youtube video of a man urinating on his Canadian passport.

This segment was produced by The Current's Chris Wodskou, Shannon Higgins and Liz Hoath.

We ended this segment with one last special information removal request to Google ... courtesy of our friends at the Content Factory.

Other segments from today's show:

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