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India ranks among top 3 countries that ask Google to remove the most content: Report

Key findings from a study reveal that defamation fueled most government requests for takedown.

India ranks among the top three countries that ask Google to remove the most content, citing defamation, privacy/security, and religious offence as some of the primary reasons, a new study by Surfshark found.

The study which analysed data from Google’s Transparency Report between 2011-2020, found that India’s removal requests have increased rapidly since 2016.

| Source: Google Transparency Report

The lack of transparency on the exact grounds for which content takedown requests are issued by the Indian government may indicate that the online space for exercising fundamental rights such as freedom of speech is shrinking.

Most removal requests in India were on defamation

Defamation (2,757), “other” (1,501), and privacy and security (1,250) that were found to be the first, second, and third most common reasons for making requests, the study showed. Over 1,131 government requests were made on the grounds of religious offences. Reasons like suicide promotion, geographical dispute, electoral law, impersonation, etc., were grouped into the “Other” category due to low figures, according to the study.

Source: Google Transparency Report

2018 was the year of takedown requests: The number of requests made on grounds of religious offence was the highest in 2018 (547 requests). Similarly, it also saw a large number of requests due to ‘privacy and security’ (305), defamation (751), and so on. Overall, it was also the year with the most number of requests (2,474) across all takedown labels, the study found.

Source: Surfshark

All-time largest number of takedown requests came from Russia

One-quarter (25.39%) of Russia’s 123,606 requests were made in 2020 alone, Surfshark stated.”While National Security has been the primary cause for takedown requests made by the Russian government and courts, 2020’s bumper year was fueled by a massive leap in Copyright Infringement alerts,” it added.

After Russia, India, and Turkey are the countries that have made the most requests over time. But both were nudged down a spot in 2020’s figures by South Korea, which nearly doubled its previous tally with 2,397 new requests. These include claims against alleged fake news on YouTube as well as blogs thought to ‘incite prostitution.’

Google took down 54,330 items at South Korea’s behest in 2020. That’s 5.37 times more than what Google took down based on US complaints during the same period.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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