touted the fact that it has refused to cooperate with local law enforcement agencies in the U.S. who requested the removal of YouTube videos of police brutality and criticisms of law enforcement officials. Google cited its transparency report from the first half of this year, but to mention it today is telling. With violent crackdowns at Occupy Oakland this week, citizen media like YouTube have been a vital channel. From Google's mid-year transparency report:In a show of good faith today, Google
"We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests."
"The whole world is watching," as protesters around the country have reminded officials since they first began to occupy Wall Street. With this week's escalations, now would not be a good time for Google to engage in censorship. The wording of its notice about denying the removal requests is encouraging, but it's carefully chosen to suit a particular situation.
Google complies with 93% of U.S. removal requests. It has decided that the best course of action is to maintain transparency and respond on a case-by-case basis. That transparency has upset governments, and the refusal to censor police brutality videos surely made some city officials unhappy.
But Google's record is spotty. Just this month, it handed over a WikiLeaks volunteer's Gmail data to the U.S. government, which used an old and controversial law to request it without a warrant from a judge. Google is pushing for updated laws that better reflect the media of today, but in the meantime, its record on upholding free speech is touch-and-go. Google has done the right thing with these police takedown requests, but the world should keep watching.
What do you think Google's responsibilities are regarding government requests?