In the latest edition of its Transparency Report, released this morning, Google revealed that the final six months of 2012 saw an increase in government requests to remove content -- often YouTube videos. All told, Google received 2,285 such requests (compared with 1,811 during the first half of 2012) that named a total of 24,179 pieces of content for removal (compared with 18,070 in the preceding period).
Partly, the rise in content-removal requests stems from the simple fact that the amount of content online is rising steadily, and some percentage of that will always be defamatory. As the quantity of content rises, so will requests for removal. Additionally, many governments may be growing "savvier" -- Google has streamlined the process for making these requests, and the increased ease with which they can be made may inviting governments to make requests, even those that aren't all that justified, and let Google do the figuring out.
That said, Google did single out two countries -- Brazil and Russia -- for instigating "sharp" increases on their own. In the preceding six months, Google received 191 requests to remove content from Brazil. From July to December, that number lept to 697 -- 640 of which were court orders, a rate of 3.5 court orders per day. The reason? Google notes that the country held municipal elections last fall and nearly half of the requests "called for the removal of 756 pieces of content related to alleged violations of the Brazilian Electoral Code, which forbids defamation and commentary that offends candidates." Google says it is appealing many of these 316 requests, contending that "the content is protected by freedom of expression under the Brazilian Constitution."