Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Google Denies Request to Take Down Police-Brutality Video

Google has recently revealed that it has refused the request of a U.S. law enforcement agency to remove a YouTube video that contains acts of police brutality.  Although Google did not disclose information about the enforcement agency’s request to remove this video, it recently revealed in its Transparency Report how similar requests have been increasing in recent months.  

Google’s most recent TransparencyReport cited the following with respect to a petitioned video:

We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests.

In the report, Google stated that the request to remove content was one of thousands made by governments around the world, including requests from the Government of Canada.  Google stated that there have been 16 requests by the Government of Canada for the removal of content from Google services in the past year, 44% of which Google either removed fully or partially.  It additionally reported that amid increased government requests to remove content, Google continues to follow its company policy of hosting content, including videos containing police brutality, unless presented with judicial rulings for the removal of specific content.

Google’s decision not to remove content containing police brutality may be particularly relevant today, as the recent Occupy protests across North America have produced a growing number of online videos of police violence toward protestors.  A video surfaced recently that showed former Marine Scott Olsen being carried away from an OccupyOakland protest after being struck in the head by a tear gas canister, which left him in critical condition.  Footage of this incident posted on YouTube has in part led to rallying of the Occupy Wall Street for greater police accountability in dealing with the protestors.

As the Occupy movement spreads across Canada, Google’s decision to host videos of police interactions with protestors may prove instrumental in promoting police accountability and transparency during these growing protests.  It will be interesting to see whether Google will maintain their policy of hosting sensitive content as government requests for their removal continue to increase.  It will also be interesting to see whether the Canadian parliament and/or judiciary addresses this issue in the future, and whether law will be enacted to facilitate the removal of content including police brutality. 
Posted by Ben Dillon (Windsor Law  I)

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