Since 2009, Google has been lauded for publishing "transparency reports" on government requests to take information offline. Each time a government official asks for a search result to be blocked or a YouTube video to be removed, Google marks down the request and discloses the number of such takedowns each nation has asked for every six months or so.
While a worthy cause for transparency advocates, the reports make for dry reading -- which is why designer Sebastian Sadowski recently created a visualization of all Google's transparency reports from 2010 to 2012 for 55 nations.
The most obvious trend revealed by Sadowski's visualization: around the world, requests for censorship are increasing. Globally, Google has received 7,047 takedown requests during the 2.5-year period beginning in July 2010. However, 2,285, or nearly a third, of those takedown requests occurred during the last six months of 2012.
Despite the controversy in the United States surrounding the removal of copyrighted work from the Internet, copyright offenses make up only a small part of what the U.S. asks Google to censor. The majority of takedown requests, according to the visualization, are for reasons of "defamation."
Takedown requests in the U.S.
But different countries have different reasons to censor Google products. In many majority-Muslim countries -- such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan -- requests for censorship remained relatively rare until the latter half of 2012, when YouTube takedown requests citing "religious offenses" spiked. The latter half of 2012, of course, is when the controversial trailer for "Innocence of Muslims" found its way to the Google-owned video site, sparking protests across the Muslim world.
Takedown requests in Malaysia.
Finally, one may be struck by the fact that Brazil tops the list of censoring countries in sheer number of requests. But that's in part because Brazil is one of the few countries on Earth where Google has a thriving social network. Sadowski's graphs show that many of Google's takedown requests in Brazil (and India) concern Orkut, a Google-owned social network that predates Google+.
Takedown requests in the Brazil.
While Orkut is relatively unknown in the United States, it has large user bases in those two countries -- thus contributing to the number of takedown requests Google receives from them.