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India Ranks Third Globally in Governmental Requests for Content Removal from Google

Surfshark Study Reveals a Surge in Removal Requests Globally, with India Witnessing a 50% Increase in 2022



India Ranks Third Globally in Governmental Requests for Content Removal from Google

NEW DELHI: Governmental agencies in India have remarkably increased their requests for content removal from Google over the past decade, positioning the country as the third-highest requester globally, according to a comprehensive study by Surfshark. The study, analyzing Google’s bi-annual content removal reports from 2009 to 2023, indicates a significant rise in removal requests worldwide, with India’s requests surging by 26% from 2021 to 2022, marking it as a record-breaking year with a 50% increase.

Rise in Governmental Requests Globally

The global count of governmental requests for content removal has surged nearly 13 times in the past decade, escalating from 7,000 to 91,000 requests annually. National security emerged as the most frequently cited reason for content removal globally, with governments emphasizing public safety concerns. Agneska Sablovskaja, Lead Researcher at Surfshark, highlighted the delicate balance between safeguarding public safety and potential censorship amid international conflicts.

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Insights into India’s Requests

India’s government has made 19.6k requests for content removal from Google between 2013 and 2022, averaging 5 requests per day. Among the top reasons cited by the Indian government, defamation accounted for 20.1% of the requests, followed by impersonation (16.3%) and privacy/security concerns (8.3%).

The requests encompassed a substantial number of items, totaling 115.5k, averaging 6 items per request. Notably, since 2019, the primary requesters in India for content removal from Google have been the police, court orders directed at Google, and the Information and Communications Authority.

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India’s Position in Comparison

In comparison to Bangladesh, India has requested eight times more content removal from Google over the past decade. The majority of content removal requests in India targeted YouTube (8.8k), Google Play Apps (4.3k), and Web Search (1.4k).

Global Rankings and Insights

Among the top countries for content removal requests, Russia led with 215k requests, followed by South Korea (27k), India (20k), Turkey (19k), Brazil (12k), and the US (11k). Notably, over two-thirds of analyzed countries had fewer than 100 requests in the last decade, underscoring the rarity of such requests in most nations.

The study revealed that governments have sought content removal from 50 different Google products, predominantly from YouTube (175k), Google Search (104k), and Blogger (17k).

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Governing Reasons for Content Removal

Governments globally cited 22 justifications for content removal requests from Google products. The top five reasons included national security (27%), copyright issues (20%), defamation (10%), regulated goods/services, and privacy/security (both 10%).

Methodology and Data Analysis

Surfshark’s study drew from Google’s bi-annual content removal reports, analyzing data from 2009 to 2023 across 150 countries. The analysis prioritized request counts over individual items, highlighting the nuances of removal requests and their diverse nature concerning specific products and reasons.

As the trend of governmental content removal requests continues to rise globally, concerns surrounding censorship versus public safety remain at the forefront of the discussion, prompting debates on maintaining a delicate balance between the two.

The Surfshark study, based on data collected as of October 16th, 2023, serves as a critical insight into the evolving landscape of online content moderation and government interventions.

India’s substantial increase in content removal requests from Google reflects the evolving nature of digital governance. As governments worldwide navigate the challenges of online content, discussions persist on preserving freedom of expression while addressing legitimate concerns regarding national security and individual rights.


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