Google’s motto these days seem to be, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do”. Whether Google is good or evil is a different question, but it definitely wants to see the end of arbitrary cyber censorship.
Yesterday, it revealed that some of its products are blocked in as many as 25 of the 100 countries they offer products in. However, Google didn’t disclose all the countries that are currently censoring Google products. Most observers took this half-hearted disclosure as signs of Google’s reluctance to take on governments around the world. As if just to prove these experts wrong, Google has just launched Government Request Tool.
The Government Request Tool (or GRT in short) displays the number of content removal requests and data requests Google received from various countries between July 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009. The included dataset is quite detailed. For example, Google received 3580 data requests and 123 removal requests from the US Government. Out of this, 80.5% of removal requests were fully or partially complied with. Removal requests included 25 web search items and 70 YouTube videos.
The dataset is not 100% comprehensive or accurate. However, it is good enough to serve its purpose, which is to pressure governments into being more responsible about censorship. Google encourages positive censorship, which includes banning stuff like child pornography. However, it hopes to reduce political censorship by being aggressively transparent.