Google publishes first transparency report under the new IT rules: Here’s what it reveals

Google has published its first transparency report under the new Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021 (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code). Google received a total of 27,762 complaints for the month of April, and the number of removals stood at 59,350. according to the report. The search giant removes any content which violates its community guidelines, product policies, or local legal requirement.

The new IT rules require significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) such as Google, Facebook, etc to publish a monthly report on the action taken on user complaints that they have received. The rules were notified in February 2021, and came into effect from May.

It should be noted that this number of requests, does not include the number of other government requests for content removal. Google has been publishing these details as a separate report, every six months since 2009.

Google’s report under the IT rules also notes that in order to “allow sufficient time for data processing and validation, there will be a two-month lag for reporting.” The existing report does not include data on removals as a result of automated detection, data relating to impersonation and graphic sexual content complaints received post May 25, 2021. This will be included in future reports.

Nearly 96 per cent complaints deal with copyright issues (26,707), while 1.3 per cent deal with trademark (357). Around 1 per cent dealt with defamation (275). Other legal requests were 1 per cent (272), counterfeit were 0.4 per cent (114 ) and circumvention were 0.1 per cent (37). According to Google, “some requests may allege infringement of intellectual property rights, while others claim violation of local laws prohibiting types of content on grounds such as defamation.”

Google specifies that each unique URL in a specific complaint is considered an individual “item”, which is why the number of removals is higher than total complaints. Further, “a single complaint may specify multiple items that potentially relate to the same or different pieces of content.”

Nearly 98 per cent of the content removal was with regard to copyright: 58,391. The rest of categories were: trademark: 931 (1.6%) Circumvention: 13 (0.0%) Counterfeit: 7 (0.0%) Defamation: 7 (0.0%) Other Legal: 1 (0.0%)

The “removal actions” number represents the number of items where a piece of content was removed or restricted during the one-month reporting period as a result of a specific complaint. Google says they review all complaints carefully.

It also notes that there are many reasons as to why they may not have removed content in response to a user complaint.

“For example, some requests may not be specific enough for us to know what the user wanted us to remove (for example, no URL is listed in the request), or the content has already been removed by the user when we process the complaint,” notes the report.

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