According to a study by Britain-based tech research firm Comparitech, India has topped the list of countries in terms of sending content removal requests to technology companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Wikimedia.
It was in 2019 when Google decided to record the number of content removal requests it received from courts and government agencies all over the world and disclose the figures on a six-month basis. Soon other companies like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and open encyclopaedia Wikimedia followed the similar path. A tech research firm Comparitech started collating all these data to find out which government was the one to censor online content the most and it has come to the conclusion that India tops the list. While Chinese government is known for censoring contents, it did not feature in the list of top 10 governments prepared by the firm.
“China has banned all of the websites we have used in this comparison, except some of Microsoft’s services, so few censorship requests are required,” Paul Bischoff, tech journalist, privacy advocate and VPN expert at Comparitech wrote in a blog post on October 1.
India is followed by Russia, Turkey, France, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Pakistan, the US and the UK in the top 10. India and Russia lead the table, accounting for 19.86 pc (77,620) and 19.75 pc (77,162) of the overall number of removal requests (390,764) respectively. These findings have come at a time when India is trying to fight the flood of fake news and misinformation spread on social media.
What are the statistics?
However, it is not like these two countries dominate the top positions on all the channels. While most requests for taking down content from Facebook were received from India, Google got it from Russia, China topped the list for Microsoft, Turkey for Twitter and Wikimedia got it from the United States.
A vast majority of India’s request which is more than 90 pc is content removal from Facebook platform, the finding showed. Therefore, while the Indian government is clearly censoring Facebook (and is actively censoring other platforms, too), other countries appear to be censoring in larger volumes across all platforms.
“We received a request from law enforcement in India to remove a photo that depicted a sketch of the Prophet Mohammed. The content didn’t violate Facebook’s Community Standards but was made unavailable in India where any depiction of Mohammed is forbidden,” said the report. The largest increase in the number of content removal requests on Facebook came in 2015, a 313.37 pc increase over the previous year from 18,481 to 76,395.
The transparency report of Facebook showed that India requested restriction of 17,700 pieces of content in the time period of July-December 2018. Facebook said in the report that it restricted access to content in India in response to legal requests from law enforcement agencies, court orders, and the ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
According to Google’s transparency report, the most of the removal requests were regarding religious offences, defamation, fraud, cases of privacy and security, harassment and hate speech.
The report also revealed that India was placed fifth in respect of content removal on Google (5,308), fourth largest on Twitter (1,406), sixth on Wikimedia (85) and tenth on Microsoft (6).