Transparency Report Sheds Light On YouTube Content Removal Requests

Transparency Report Sheds Light On YouTube Content Removal Requests

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Google’s new Transparency Report is pretty cool. It’s an attempt on their behalf to be more public with information regarding government requests they receive. The data breaks down into two main categories: requests for user information and requests for content removal. The report covers several Google properties, including Blogger and Google Search, but I thought it would be interesting to look specifically at YouTube to learn what kinds of videos and video users are most often targeted by government requests.

General Government Request Data

First things first… lets look at some overall numbers for government requests across all Google properties. We’ll look at the most recent data, which is June 2010 to December 2010, but the report is interactive, and allows you to go back by six month increments.

Content Removal Requests:

Brazil leads all countries with 263 content removal requests. The U.S., for comparison’s sake, is 6th, with a total of 54 requests.

However, Brazil’s “conversion rate,” so to speak–the percentage of requests that resulted in an actual content removal–was only 76%. The U.S. was at 87%, and South Korea hit 100%.

Here’s a screenshot of the top 10:

User Information Requests:

When you click over to see the data regarding user information requests, the picture is a bit different. The U.S. leads all countries with a whopping 4,601. That means that in the last six months of last year, the U.S. government asked Google for information about over four thousand Google product users.

The next-closest country is Brazil, with a “meager” 1,804.

The U.S. has a pretty good batting average, though, with 94% of their user information requests being granted–the highest percentage of all the countries listed.

Here’s a screenshot of the top 10 governments in user information requests:

Government Requests Regarding YouTube

Let’s take a look at YouTube content removal requests, and see what kind of data the report contains. We’ll look at the U.S. specifically, because the only way I’ve found to drill down into the data on different Google products is to select a country.

Clicking on U.S. shows us a more detailed view of that government’s request information. For some reason, the User Information section doesn’t break the data down into the various properties. But the Content Removal section does. Here’s a screenshot:

You can see the 54 content removal requests, and because some of the individual requests contained more than one piece of content, there were a total of 1,421 items requested for removal by the U.S. government in the second half of 2010.

Drop below that, and you’ll see the product breakdowns. Of the 1,421 item-removal requests, 192 were for YouTube videos. Those were spread out over 19 total government requests, 4 of which were court orders (the rest were executive or police requests).

Defamation appears to be the main reason the government has for requesting YouTube video removals, with 152 of the 194 items falling under that category. And it’s actually the number one reason across all the Google services. Three videos were marked for removal for privacy and security reasons, with one each for National Security and Violence. Another 36 items were flagged for “other” reasons.

Even though Google Video is now shut down, it still has one video-removal request from late 2010, with no information given on the reason.

If you’re curious, the leading Google Product in receiving these content removal requests is Google Groups, which accounts for 1,110 of the 1,421 requests.

You can also choose to view the data by a breakdown of the request reasons, which looks like this:


I’m not sure there are too many specific takeaways from the data, at least not in daily application to video marketing. Except that defamation is the biggest reason for the U.S. government to get involved and ask Google to remove an offending YouTube video. And I think that’s definitely an important reminder, since I think it’s easy for the average filmmaker to forget about those concerns when making a video.

But the report is fascinating. And there’s a lot of high level learning to be had about cultural differences when you start digging into the various countries and their specific requests. For instance, Brazil has a lot of content removal requests for “Impersonation” and “Electoral Law” violations, and almost all of South Korea’s requests are related to “Privacy & Security” violations.

It’s definitely worth a look when you have some time, and the interactive nature lets you drill down and back out easily to really explore the data.


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