These governments ask Google to remove the most content


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The internet just keeps getting bigger. And the more content goes up, the more there is to take down.

Since 2009, Google has regularly announced the number of content removal requests it receives from national governments and their agencies.

Global removal requests soared in 2016 and have risen nearly every year since – fueled first by national security requests and then by copyright takedowns. That’s right – 2016, the year of Trump and Brexit and the overdue realization that what people say on the internet changes the world.

As the visible element of the internet evolves, the iceberg of takedowns and attempted takedowns grows and grows. Whether it’s a matter of censorship, privacy, or security depends on where you’re sitting – and what you know. But what we do know is how many requests have been made and which countries they’ve come from. Surfshark has analyzed Google’s files to provide, below, more granular context than the official news releases reveal.


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Key Findings

Six of the 10 countries that make the most requests have Defamation as their most common reason.

  • In 2020, the USA made the lowest number of removal requests (596) to Google since 2012.
  • South Korea made the second-highest number of requests in 2020, nearly doubling its ten-year total.

Image Credit: JHVEPhoto / istockphoto.

Which Countries Ask Google to Remove the Most Content?

Google receives thousands of requests every year from all levels of government to remove online content. From infringement of intellectual property rights to defamation, there are a number of reasons a removal request might be submitted. But where in the world asks Google to remove content the most?

Historically, Russia is by far the most prolific content removal requester, submitting 123,606 requests in total over the past 10 years. Turkey is next up with 14,231 requests which, although the second-highest figure, seems mere in comparison.

The government’s communications watchdog claims Google has been too slow removing material from alleged ‘extremist organizations’ at the same time as restricting YouTube access to Russian media platforms. “This censorship of Russian media and the targeted support for illegal protest activity actually speak to the political coloring of Google’s activities in Russia,” according to the Russian watchdog.

Defamation is the most prevalent cause for requests among the rest of the countries in the table. EU residents can request certain results be omitted from Google Search as part of the poetically-named ‘right to be forgotten.’ However, the US government makes thousands of Defamation-related takedown requests each year, and many of these are aimed at altering search results.

Here are top reasons countries ask google to remove content:

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20. Vietnam

Top reason: Government Criticism

Requests: 459

Total: 652

Image Credit: monticelllo / istockphoto.

19. Argentina

Top reason: Defamation

Requests: 437

Total: 944

Image Credit: SamyStClair / istockphoto.

18. Japan

Top reason: Defamation

Requests: 774

Total: 987

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17. Australia

Top reason: Privacy and Security

Requests: 374

Total: 1064

Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

16. Thailand

Top reason: Government Criticism

Requests: 1092

Total: 1147

Image Credit: ake1150sb / iStock.

15. Spain

Top reason: Privacy and Security

Requests: 597

Total: 1149

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14. Canada

Top reason: Fraud

Requests: 448

Total: 1171

Image Credit: diegograndi/istockphoto.

13. China

Top reason: Violence

Requests: 952

Total: 1252

Image Credit: XIUYUAN YAO / istockphoto.

12. Pakistan

Top reason: Religious Offense

Requests: 912

Total: 1873

Image Credit: Skazzjy/istockphoto.

11. Israel

Top reason: Defamation

Requests: 1307

Total: 2086

Image Credit: WangAnQi / istockphoto.

10. Italy

Top reason: Defamation

Requests: 1179

Total: 2112

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9. Germany

Top reason: Defamation

Requests: 1978

Total: 3925

Image Credit: bluejayphoto / iStock.

8. France

Top reason: National Security

Requests: 1493

Total: 4231

Image Credit: neirfy / istockphoto.

7. United Kingdom

Top reason: National Security

Requests: 1574

Total: 4387

Image Credit: SHansche / istockphoto.

6. South Korea

Top reason: Other

Requests: 2349

Total: 5330

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5. Brazil

Top reason: Defamaion

Requests: 3757

Total: 8148

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4. United States

Top reason: Defamation

Requests: 5793

Total: 9627

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3. India

Top reason: Defamation

Requests: 2757

Total: 9899

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2. Turkey

Top reason: Defamation

Requests: 5,543

Total: 14,231

Image Credit: Photosensia / istockphoto.

1. Russia

Russia has made the most takedown requests over the past decade, nearly ten times as many as second-placed Turkey.

Top reason: National Security

Requests: 41,602

Total: 14,231

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Removal Requests for Search Results Soar in 2020

The platforms most targeted by government requests over the past 10 years and in 2020 were Google Search and YouTube.

These requests came in a historic moment when the tech giants banded with governments to weed out misinformation about the Covid pandemic and vaccinations. Perhaps it is surprising, then, that Blogger takedown requests were below their year-on-year average for this period. Meanwhile, some of the platforms with just a handful of requests indicate the way that contentious information and opinions are embedded in the structure of the web platforms we use: even Maps and Autocomplete receive takedown requests.

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US Government Removal Requests Down 67.23% Since 2017

Removal requests from the US spiked in the first year of the Trump administration, mostly thanks to a 285.47% rise in fraud-related complaints. Nearly one-in-ten of America’s 3,039,200 fraud victims in 2017 were tricked via internet or phone services. This appears to be the result of retailers and, in turn, fraudsters moving their operations online and the increased IRL security of credit card chips.

The US government is now relatively modest in the number of requests made considering the size and influence of the state. Requests have gradually decreased since 2017. Last year, just 596 requests were made – only the eighth highest total and one below seventh-placed France – resulting in 9,482 removals.

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Post-Brexit Surge in UK Removal Requests Now Waning

Like the US, the UK saw a spike in removal requests in 2017. But, in the UK’s case, the trend had already begun with a leap in Privacy and Security- and Violence-related requests in 2016, the year of Brexit. Requests in these categories actually shrank again in 2017, but the year’s total remains the UK’s highest due to a 225.66% leap in National Security-themed requests.

In 2020, the UK’s requests reached their lowest since 2014: 200 in total, of which 38% were Defamation-related. These included “a defamation request from the Embassy of Israel [in the UK] to delist a blog post from Google Search claiming a former Ambassador to the United Kingdom engaged in inappropriate sexual relations.” As a result, Google delisted the offending URL from the domain.

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A Moment on the Lips, A Lifetime in the Archive

You can’t spell ‘contentious’ without ‘content’ – and Google is where many of us go to get that content fix. With a 91.66% cut of all search traffic and with billions of hours of viewing time on Google’s YouTube platform each week, there are bound to be elements of that content that are illegal, embarrassing, or just plain dangerous.

Of course, Google isn’t the only organization to receive takedown requests. Nor does the search giant have the power to remove everything asked of it, even if they wanted to: “Sometimes,” confides Google, “we even receive requests to remove content ‘from the Internet.’”

Image Credit: YouTube.

Methodology & Sources

This study analyzes data from Google’s Transparency Report. We filtered the data by location, volume of requests between 2011-2020, volume of requests in 2020 alone, and the top reason for requests in each country and globally. Our goal was to reveal which government bodies around the world submit the most requests to Google to remove content and why.

Note: Reasons with very low figures were grouped into the “Other” category. These reasons are: Suicide Promotion, Geographical Dispute, Electoral Law, Impersonation, Regulated Goods & Services, Reason Unspecified and Other.

Data was gathered in October 2021.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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