Over 600 videos which allegedly display or discuss acts of terrorism have been removed from YouTube. The request came from the UK police service. However, Google refused other requests for 'censorship' from governments across the world.
In the UK, the Association of Chief Police Officers made a request to Google, the owners of YouTube, that some 640 videos be removed from the service. The reason stated was because the videos were considered by the police authorities to promote ‘terrorism’.
The removal of the videos also led to Google terminating five YouTube accounts, which were seen as the source of the videos.
The removal of the videos came about in 2011, but this has only recently come to light via Google’s international report (called the Transparency Report). In the report it is noted that Google met other requests for censorship but rejected others on the basis of free speech.
The BBC notes that, in addition to the terrorism related material, Google removed the following videos from the YouTube site:
Videos filmed in Thailand that allegedly insulted its monarchy,
A video that contained a hate speech posted in Turkey,
Four videos which contained threatening and harassing content.
The line between censorship and freedom of expression is a tricky one for major Internet companies, especially the degree of acquiescence made to nation states. In general, Google appeared concerned with the high number of requests made for censorship. Sky News quotes Dorothy Chou, who is Google's senior policy analyst, as saying: "It's alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect - Western democracies not typically associated with censorship."
Total Telecom notes that videos which Google refused to remove from YouTube included a request made from the Canada's Passport Office, which had asked for the removal of a video of a Canadian citizen urinating on his passport and then flushing it down the toilet. A second rejected request was from Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology over footage which satirized Pakistan's army and senior politicians.