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Google discloses demands for censorship

AP , SAN FRANCISCO

Google Inc has set up a new tool to show where it’s facing the most government pressure to censor material and turn over personal information about its users.

The country-by-country breakdown, released on Tuesday at www.google.com/governmentrequests, marks the first time that the Internet search leader has provided such a detailed look at the censorship and data requests that it gets from regulators, courts and other government agencies.

The figures cover the final half of last year and will be updated every six months.

Google posted the numbers nearly a month after it began redirecting search requests to its China-based service. Those requests are now handled in Hong Kong so Google wouldn’t have to obey Beijing’s Internet censorship laws.

Google said details about the censorship demands it got while in China still aren’t being shared because the information is classified as a state secret.

In other countries, Google is making more extensive disclosures about censorship demands or other government requests to edit its search results. Google is also including demands to remove material from its other services, including the YouTube video site, although it is excluding removal requests related to allegations of copyright infringement, a recurring problem for YouTube.

In the US, for instance, Google received 123 requests to remove material from its services during the last half of last year and complied with 80 percent of them. Reasons include violations of Google’s own policies regarding extreme violence, profanity and hate speech.

Brazil’s government peppered Google with the most requests during the six-month period covered. The company says that’s largely because it operates a social network called Orkut. That service has attracted millions of users in Brazil and generates more taunting, derogatory language and other inflammatory material likely to trigger government requests and violate its own standards.

Google received 3,663 requests for user data and 291 requests to remove material from Brazil. Nearly 200 involved Orkut.

Other countries logging at least 1,000 requests for user data were the US (3,580), UK (1,166) and India (1,061).

After Brazil, the most requests to edit material came from Germany, at 188. The country has laws that restrict the online display of content connected to the Nazi regime.

Meanwhile, Google is in talks to acquire ITA Software Inc, a maker of travel programs used by companies including Orbitz Worldwide Inc and Microsoft Corp, three people familiar with the matter said.

ITA Software may seek about US$1 billion, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions haven’t been made public.

Google could use ITA Software’s tools, which help users find online flight information, to compete with features offered by Microsoft.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BLOOMBERG

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