Privacy to porno: What censorship means around the world [map]

Google (s goog) released data today that shows requests for censorship and surveillance are on the rise worldwide. Google keeps track of government requests to remove its content (requests it sometimes abides) and releases data biannually.  We mapped those numbers, which include July 2010 through June of this year, to show the main products each government is targeting and the reasons they gave for doing so.

What it shows is that censorship varies greatly across the world — some of which stretches the definition of what people usually define as censorship. For example, since the reports began in 2010, the United Kingdom has led the way with 97,891 removal requests, 96,280 of which were for Google’s AdWords.

Country Sum of Items Requested To Be Removed
United Kingdom 97,891
South Korea 33,235
Brazil 15,919
United States 12,537
Germany 7,962

But the majority of the U.K.’s removal requests occurred in 2010 at the behest of the U.K. Office of Fair trading, which asked for “the removal of fraudulent ads that linked to scams,” according to  the July-December 2010 report. Google removed nearly all of them, more than 93,000 items.

Other nations engage in a much more traditional — at least in a Western sense — censorship. Thailand, for example, has far fewer government removal requests (431), all of which are directed at YouTube for criticizing Thailand’s king. The latest numbers show in the last six months Turkey and the United States have led the world in data removal requests.

What’s perhaps most interesting about the data are the reasons Google was asked to take down content. They provide insight into a government’s priorities and rationale. While Brazil and Hong Kong are diligent about copyright requests, they are so for different reasons: Brazil had 11,613 removal requests directed at Picasa Web Albums, Hong Kong directed its 381 at YouTube. Countries across the world cited pornography as a reason for removal, with Turkey as the most aggressive (557).

And while defamation was the leading worldwide excuse for removal requests, the products that caused the defamation varied greatly, from Web Search to Blogger to AdWords. Take a look at each country to see its frequency and reasoning for petitioning Google.