India has emerged as the third-highest contributor to content removal requests sent to Google over the past decade, surpassing a staggering 20,000 requests. According to a recent study conducted by Surfshark, a Netherlands-based cybersecurity services and Virtual Private Network (VPN) provider, India has been sending an average of 5.5 removal requests per day to Google.
The study analyzed removal requests from 150 countries between 2013 and 2022, shedding light on the global trend of governments attempting to censor online discourse. The primary reason behind India’s content removal requests was found to be “defamation”.
The report highlighted that out of the 3.5 lakh content removal requests received by Google from 150 countries during the examined period, six countries accounted for over 85 percent of the total requests. These countries include Russia, South Korea, India, Turkey, Brazil, and the United States.
Over the past decade, the global count of government requests for content removal from Google products has increased almost 13 times, from 7,000 to 91,000 requests per year. Russia topped the rankings with 2.15 lakh requests, followed by South Korea and India with around 19,600 requests to remove more than 1.1 lakh items.
The reasons for content removal globally range from violations of local law and court directives to political content removal requests, citing defamation, privacy, or copyright laws. Governments often cite national security as the most frequently cited reason for seeking the removal of undesirable content.
Advocates of free speech and digital rights have raised concerns about the potential encroachment of censorship and called for transparency regarding content removal, particularly in relation to political purposes.
This study by Surfshark serves as a reminder of the increasing efforts by governments worldwide to control online content, raising important questions about the balance between public safety and the preservation of freedom of expression.