Google received more than 1000 requests from authorities to take down content from its search results or YouTube videos in the last six months of 2011, the company declared, denouncing what it said was an alarming trend. In its twice-yearly Transparency Report, the world’s largest web search engine opined that the requests were aimed at having some 12,000 items overall removed, about a quarter more than during the first half of last year. Many of those requests targeted political speech, keeping up a trend Google said it has noticed since it started releasing its Transparency Report in 2010. In the second half of last year, Google complied with around 65 percent of court orders and 47 percent of informal requests to remove content. The censorship report offers an overview of which officials have asked Google to delete content and why. In one case, Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 links to blogs and newspaper articles criticising public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. Google and many other online providers maintain that they cannot lawfully remove any content for which they are merely the host and not the producer, a principle enshrined in EU law on eCommerce since 2000. In January 2012 the European Union’s executive Commission announced it would introduce clearer guidelines on handling such requests, outlining under which circumstances it would be legal to have content removed from the Web and when it would curb free speech and fundamental rights. The Commission has launched a public consultation called “a clean and open Internet” and has asked companies how many requests they get to take down content, from whom and for what reason. Among examples of material that should be taken down EU regulators cite racist content, child abuse or spam. The rules are expected to be announced before the end of the year.
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