Russia top of the list in Google content take-down requests

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Russia made almost 10 times more take-down requests than the second highest country on the list over a 10 year period.

Russia made the most requests to take down content on Google between 2010 and 2020 by a massive margin, a new study has found.

VPN provider Surfshark analysed Google’s files to determine the number of requests to take down content, which country made the request and the reason listed for the take-down.

Russia topped the ranking, issuing 123,606 take-down requests over the past 10 years, with more than 25pc of these taking place in 2020 alone.

The second highest on the list was Turkey with more than 14,000 requests over the decade-long period.

Russia made almost twice as many requests as the next nine countries on the list combined.

Surfshark’s research shows the number of global take-down requests soared in 2016, rising every year since. This was the year of the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Defamation was the main reason listed for six of the 10 countries that made the most requests, while national security was the main reason cited for Russia’s requests.

Table of countries with the number of requests to take down content and the main reason listed.

Image: Surfshark

Removal requests for search results were high in 2020 when Facebook, Twitter and Google began working with a coalition of governments to stop misinformation and conspiracy theories around Covid-19 vaccinations.

The Surfshark study noted that a single request can cover multiple pieces of content and multiple requests can be made against the same content.

Russia has recently taken stronger measures to exert control over Big Tech. Google and Meta were fined millions by a Russian court at the end of December 2021 for failing to remove content from their platforms that the country deems illegal under current legislation.

A 2019 law implemented last year has made it compulsory for smartphones, computers and TVs to come pre-installed with Russian software. Companies with websites that have more than 500,000 daily visitors in Russia will also have to open an office in the country.

Russia isn’t alone in its attempts to send a message to Big Tech, as EU lawmakers voted in favour of the Digital Markets Act at the end of 2021. The proposed law seeks to impose stricter rules around tech competition in Europe.

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