Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Google Transparency Report: Less requests and censoring in Thailand

Google’s latest Transparency Report is out and, as ever, it makes for fascinating reading.

I’m still digesting the latest installment but a quick glance at Thailand’s stats shows that the number videos flagged by the government has dropped while Google’s granting of censorship requests is also down to a record low 21%.

The latest report covers January to June 2012 and, within that period, the Thai government contacted Google twice with requests to removal a total of 14 videos from YouTube for — as you might expect — “insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law.”

In the past Google has largely bowed to these claims. It restricted all of the 43 pieces of content flagged July-December 2010, 90% of the 225 videos January-June 2011 and, most recently, 70% of 149 videos July-December 2011…but from January-June 2012 it blocked just 3 of the 14 videos (circa 21%).

Update: As pointed as elsewhere, this shift on censorship is all the more significant given that there was a change of government more than a year ago.

Google doesn’t publish full details of each request but, from the numbers, the Thai government is asking for less videos to be blocked but a larger proportion of the content flagged falls outside of what Google’s deems inappropriate or illegal.

Point in case, the government said over the weekend it is considering a request to block the video of a man whose daughter was raped in Krabi. The argument being that the video — which ‘went viral’ — is damaging tourism by being online (read this critique of the madness).

Clearly there’s nothing illegal about the video, and such a request — which would be included in the next report, due in 6 months — would be rejected if filed.

Google’s past report entries from Thailand are below (can’t get a screenshot to embed):

Thailand

January to June 2012

We received two requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 14 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. We restricted three of these videos from view in Thailand out of respect for local law.

July to December 2011

We received four requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. We restricted 70% of these videos from view in Thailand out of respect for local law.

January to June 2011

We received two requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 225 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. We restricted Thai users from accessing more than 90% of the videos.

July to December 2010

We received a request from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 43 pieces of content because they were mocking or criticizing the king in violation of Thai lèse-majesté laws. We restricted Thai users from accessing these videos.

TNW’s summary of the latest report: Google issues new Transparency Report, says government surveillance is on the rise

Also worth a look, from 6 months ago: Google releases Transparency Report: Thailand an unknown quantity