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India: Google notes increase in censorship requests


Muslim activists from The All India Minority Front (AIMF) shout slogans as they hold placards during a protest rally against Google and Orkut websites in New Delhi, 26 June 2007. Activists protested against the websites who allegedly use insulting words and cartoons of Prophet Mohammad and many Hindu Gods.

Google said censorship requests from India rose 49 percent over the last six months of 2011, compared with January-June, as a debate rages over how to constrain hate speech and copyright violations without curbing legitimate political discourse.

On Monday, Google said that it had received 101 content removal requests from Indian authorities between July and December last year, asking it to delete 255 items from its websites, the Times of India reported. Just five of these requests were made by courts, according to the newspaper. 

According to the Google data, the company was asked to remove 130 items, including 77 videos on Youtube, because they were deemed defamatory, the paper said. However, only 25 items out of the total 130 had been deemed defamatory by the court system.

Read about India's partisan debate over online censorship in "Meet the Internet Hindus" on GlobalPost.

Another 25 items, including 24 videos, were considered hate speech. 

"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," the TOI quoted Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst, as writing on the official Google blog. "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."

As far as removing the content was concerned, Google said it complied with 80 percent of the requests received from Indian courts. But for requests made by police or other government agencies, it complied in only 26 percent of the cases. "For the six months of data we're releasing today, we complied with an average of 65% of court orders, as opposed to 47% of more informal requests," TOI quotes Chou as writing.