Updated: 19/06/12 : 07:48:21
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World :: Google 'Alarmed' By Rising Global Censorship

Google has reported a "troubling" rise in requests from governments to remove political blog posts and videos from search results, and hand over user information.

The search engine said it continued to see an increase in requests to take down "political speech", as it released its fifth Transparency Report, covering the last six months of last year.

Dorothy Chou, Google's senior policy analyst, said: "It's alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect - Western democracies not typically associated with censorship."

Countries including Germany, Spain, the UK and Canada all asked Google to take down content. The amount of requests from the US more than doubled compared to the previous half year.

Ukraine, Jordan and Bolivia showed up for the first time on the list of countries out to have online material removed, Google said.

A total of 640 videos were removed by Google amid official complaints that they encouraged terrorist activities.

In the UK, Google closed five user accounts that the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) alleged were promoting terrorism.

The company acceded to a request to block more than 100 YouTube videos in Thailand which allegedly insulted its monarchy - a crime in the country.

Around 93% of requests from the US were successful, according to Google's figures.

But the company stressed that not all requested content is removed.

Canada's passport office asked for a YouTube video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and flushing it down the toilet to be removed, Google said, adding: "We did not comply with this request."

And an appeal from the government of Pakistan to take down six clips that satirised the country's army and senior politicians was not followed through, the company added.

From the start of July to the end of December, Google's figures show it complied with an average of 65% of 467 court orders, and 47% of 561 more informal requests.

"We realise that the numbers we share can only provide a small window into what's happening on the web at large," Ms Chou said.

"But we do hope that by being transparent about these government requests, we can continue to contribute to the public debate about how government behaviours are shaping our web."