Google Transparency Report finds few removal requests from African governments in 2012
Government requests for removal of Google content in Sub-Saharan Africa were again sporadic in 2012 despite a drastic increase in global requests. Still, a handful of African nations – from South Africa to Sierra Leone – requested certain that Google content (Search, Blogger, or YouTube) be either reviewed or removed.
Most requests from Sub-Saharan Africa dealt with supposed defamatory content. Google occasionally obliged to court orders, but never removed a request from another type of authority:
- South African court orders requested 17 search results and 2 blogs to be removed. Google removed the majority.
- Authorities in Mauritius requested 2 search results to be removed. Google removed none.
- In Madagascar, court orders requested the removal of 2 blogs. Google removed one.
- Kenyan authorities requested the removal of 1 blog. Google did not comply.
- In Sierra Leone, authorities requested the removal of 60 YouTube videos (possibly around the time of presidential elections). Google removed none.
- Morocco continued to block Google Earth access (which it has done since 2009).
Requests from North Africa all had to do with the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube video:
- Djibouti requested the video to be removed.
- Egypt asked Google to review the video’s content.
- Google temporarily blocked access to the video in Egypt and in Libya.
No African governments or courts asked Google to hand over user data.
This lack of interaction between African governments and Google could signify that the majority of African regulatory bodies are not aware of the option to request Google data. Kenya’s sole request to have a Blogger blog removed comes as a surprise given the country’s stance on defamatory behavior online. Numerous other nations with similar policies didn’t request the removal of content at all. The lack of court orders requesting the removal of data is probably tied to low Internet use (ie. if no data exists then it doesn’t need to be removed).
Although the general lack of requests seems to bode well for online freedom – as does the lack of African countries on RSF’s annual ‘Enemies of the Internet‘ list – many governments still employ internet surveillance. Just this week, Nigeria’s Federal Government awarded a large contract to an Israeli company to potentially monitor internet communications. Kenya has plans to eventually monitor internet traffic and at least Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia are considered to monitor web traffic.