India tops list of countries which sought removal of online content; Pakistan at 8th spot: report

Data collated from transparency reports of tech giants shows Pakistan sent 9,771 requests seeking removal of content.
Published October 1, 2019

India tops the list of countries which sent the most number of content removal requests to some of the world's biggest tech companies in the last 10 years, according to a report released by Comparitech on Tuesday.

Pakistan stands 8th on the list, with Russia and Turkey also among the top three.

The report by the UK-based tech research firm is based on data collated from the transparency reports of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. These transparency reports detail the number of content removal requests the companies receive from courts and government agencies across the world.

Summarising its findings after analysing the data from 2009 until 2019, Comparitech said it found that "Some governments avidly try to control online data, whether this is on social media, blogs, or both."

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With 77,620 requests, India tops the list of 20 countries which sent the most number of content removal requests to Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Wikimedia. Pakistan sent 9,771 such requests during the past decade.

Top 20 countries by overall number of content removal requests

  1. India – 77,620
  2. Russia – 77,162
  3. Turkey – 63,585
  4. France – 49,971
  5. Mexico – 25,036
  6. Brazil – 17,346
  7. Germany – 13,366
  8. Pakistan – 9,771
  9. United States – 9,574
  10. United Kingdom – 6,402
  11. Israel – 5,527
  12. South Korea – 4,445
  13. China – 4,374
  14. Italy – 3,867
  15. Austria – 2,928
  16. Japan – 2,138
  17. Vietnam – 1,964
  18. Thailand – 1,901
  19. Spain – 1,592
  20. Argentina – 1,575

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Russia sent most content removal requests to Google

According to the report, Russia dominates the top spot in the list of countries which sent the most content removal requests to Google between July 2009 and July 2018. With 61,471 requests, Russia's number is 53.31 per cent of the overall requests received from all countries (115,301).

Russia is followed by Turkey (10,379 requests) and the US (7,964 requests). Pakistan stands 20th with 292 requests to Google.

The top reasons for content removal, according to Comparitech, are national security (29.74pc of total), defamation (17.83pc of total), and regulated goods and services (12.72pc of total).

India sent most content removal requests to Facebook

Among the countries that asked Facebook to remove content most frequently between July 2013 and December 2018, India tops the list by a large margin.

With 70,815 requests, Facebook is where the vast majority of Indian government's content removal requests go (91.23pc of the country's total of 77,620).

However, the report noted that "while the Indian government is clearly censoring Facebook (and is actively censoring other platforms, too), other countries appear to be censoring in larger volumes across all platforms."

France is 2nd on this list with 42,989 requests while Mexico stands third with 24,872 requests. Pakistan, with 8,881 requests, is at the 6th spot.

Turkey sent most content removal requests to Twitter

Turkey leads the ranking of countries which put through the most number of requests to Twitter to remove content between January 2012 and July 2018, according to the report.

These requests cover the legal demands to remove content received by Twitter. They do not cover requests sent by government officials based solely on Twitter Rules.

Turkey sent 30,183 content removal requests to the microblogging site during the aformentioned period, while Russia sent 11,570 and France 3,807.

India stands 4th on this list with 1,406 requests while Pakistan ranks 11th with 592 requests.

Read: Pakistan reported 3,000 accounts in six months: Twitter

Citing one instance of a request received from Turkey between Jul-Dec 2018, Twitter said: “We received a court order demanding removal of 24 allegedly defamatory Tweets related to a book written about the owner of a well-known construction company in Turkey. Upon review, 17 Tweets had already been deleted by the users and 1 account did not exist. We objected to the court order for the remainder of the reported content on the basis of its newsworthiness, and prevailed. Therefore we took no further action.”

Microsoft and Wikimedia

At 3,732, China tops the list of countries which sent the most content removal requests to Microsoft from January 2015 to December 2018. It is followed by France and the UK.

The requests are mainly from governments for claims such as violations of Microsoft’s terms of use or the country’s local laws.

Except some of Microsoft’s services, China has banned all of the websites analysed in the report.

The US leads the group of countries ranked by the number of requests submitted to Wikimedia from July 2012 to December 2018. It is followed by Germany and France

Comparitech noted that Wikimedia content removal requests are "hardly ever actioned". According to the report, the only content removal request accepted was from Ukraine in 2014.

Header image by Reuters/File.