Google Inc. has revealed in a report that requests for removal of content by the Indian government increased 49% in July-December 2011 from the previous six months. It also said such requests are on the rise from governments across the world.
Internet censorship has become a hot topic in India over the past few months, with the government seemingly trying to rein in sites it deems offensive, apart from a court-ordered ban on file-sharing sites.
According to the Google Transparency Report website, which logs content removal requests received from governments, the Internet firm received 101 requests from the Indian government for removal of content from Google services for the period, of which 85 requests related to content on YouTube, Orkut and Blogger. The Internet search leader fully or partially complied with 29% of the requests.
The government had demanded that 255 items be removed; a single government request may cover one or multiple items.
Google had received 67 requests from the government for removing 282 content items (such as videos critical of politicians)
July-December 2010. Google complied with 22% of the requests.
For January-June 2011, Google received 68 requests for 358 items from government agencies. Google complied with 51% of the cases.
Privacy and freedom of expression are gradually being compromised in cyberspace, say advocacy groups, with social networking sites and Internet firms buckling under pressure from governments to monitor and block so-called objectionable content.
In December, communications and information technology minister Kapil Sibal said the Centre had no option but to “evolve guidelines" to ensure that “blasphemous content on the Internet or television is not allowed", since Internet and social networking sites such as Google, Microsoft Corp., Twitter, Yahoo Inc. and Facebook Inc. failed “to respond to and cooperate with" the government’s request to keep “objectionable" content off their sites.
A few days later, Sibal clarified that “...this government (of the United Progressive Alliance) does not believe in censorship". And, in an interview to ‘Mint’ on 1 February, Gulshan Rai, head of India’s Computer Emergency Response Team and coordinator of a committee on cyber law, said: “We value the freedom of speech. We do not interfere there."