April 27th, 2010
Update: Brazil upset with take-down request ranking
By Dan Kubiske
Initially posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World
Last week Google started releasing data about requests it received to take down material from its servers. (Who is asking Google to take down stuff and why)
In the first report, Brazil came out #1 in data and removal requests.
And the Brazilians are not happy with that title.
Brazil: Google data gives bad censorship rap
By Bradley Brooks
Rio de Janeiro
Brazilian prosecutors said Monday a new Google tool showing government requests for data on users of the Internet giant’s services or the removal of content is giving their country a bad rap.
Google Inc. released an online tool last week showing where it faces the most government pressure to remove material and turn over personal information about its users.
Brazil led the roughly 100 countries in which Google operates by making 291 requests to remove data and 3,663 requests for information on users during the last six months of 2009, the period analyzed.
When you look at the removal requests, 165 of the 291 requests are because of court orders. And, by and large, the Brazilian courts are trustworthy in enforcing enforce local laws.
And it is the local laws that may be causing Brazil’s high ranking in requests for Internet take downs.
Brazilian law punishes inciting discrimination or prejudice based on race, color, ethnicity or religion on the Internet with penalties up to five years in prison. No action has to be taken on the statements. The statements alone are sufficient grounds for prosecution.
Back in 2006 Brazil looking into Orkut communities to prosecute those associated with racism, homophobia and pedophilia. Judges handed down orders for Google to turn over its Orkut database or face fines of $23,000 a day.
In a case decided yesterday, Google was fined $8,500 by a Brazilian court after an Orkut user accuses a priest of pedophilia.
The judge said:
“By making space available on virtual networking sites, in which users can post any type of message without any checks beforehand, with offensive and injurious content, and, in many cases, of unknown origin, (Google) assumes the risk of causing damage” to other people.
Back to the latest complaint from the government.
Priscila Schreiner, a Sao Paulo-based federal prosecutor, said in the article, most of Brazil’s requests relate to child pornography and racism cases on the Internet.
But Google says it automatically removes these types of items and those pull-downs are not included in the numbers. They make that point in the FAQ section for the tool:
The statistics we report here do not include content removals that we regularly process every day across our products for violation of our content policies (for example, we do not permit hate speech in Blogger and other similar products) in response to user complaints. In many cases, those removals result in the takedown of material that violates local law, independent of any government demand or court order seeking such removal.
The local prosecutor wants Google to turn over how it compiled its statistics. She said it is important for the public to know that the Brazilian government is not attempting to censor speech.
Perhaps one of the reasons Google may get a large number of take-down requests from Brazil and India is because the Google social network Orkut is very big in those two countries.
Brazil represents 50 percent of all Orkut users in the world. And Google is learning from court case after court case that even anonymous Orkut postings can cause the company a lot of grief.
One of the real downsides to this tool is that it does not include requests to block items. Google says it is working on a separate tool to report on demands from governments to block items on the Google servers.
Once that happens, just watch how far down Brazil goes on the list.
It is interesting the Brazilian government is upset with its ranking in terms of removal requests when its own prosecutors and independent judiciary keep filing judicial orders to remove material or impose penalties for anonymous posting.
For now, we have a tool — albeit clearly in beta — to look at the raw number of requests by governments to take items off the Internet.