The GovLab Index on Internet Governance — Content

Please find below the latest installment in The GovLab Index series, inspired by the Harper’s Index. “The GovLab Index on Internet Governance — Content” is part of a series of Indexes that focus on the five main areas within Internet Governance: access, content, code, trust, and trade. This edition highlights public sentiment and information on freedom of expression and censorship online. This Index examines various types of online censorship: technical blocking, search result removals, takedown, and self-censorship. Previous installments include Internet Governance — AccessMeasuring Impact with EvidenceOpen Data, The Data UniverseParticipation and Civic Engagement, and Trust in Institutions.

Public Sentiment

  • Percentage of Internet users surveyed in 6 countries (USA, Mexico, Pakistan, Sweden, Egypt, and Thailand) who have felt hesitant expressing opinions on the Internet: 68%
    • How many of those concerned say it has a direct effect on their online behavior: 90%
    • Those who state freedom of speech online is not important: 8%
  • Percentage of Internet users surveyed who say it is acceptable to censor or block:
    • personal threats online: 80%
    • bullying: 79%
    • information that can compromise national security: 79%
    • pornographic content: 78%
    • slander: 76%
    • racist content: 70%
    • sexist content: 67%
    • religious criticism: 47%
    • criticism against government/state: 32%
  • How many of the 24 emerging and developing economies surveyed have a majority opinion that it is important that people have access to the internet without government censorship: 22 countries
  • Demographic that is most likely to call for Internet freedom without government censorship: 18-29 year olds
  • Correlation between support for Internet freedom and Internet usage: 0.76, higher usage correlates with higher support

Censorship Country Overview

  • Of the 60 countries assessed, how many have experienced a negative trajectory in terms of Internet Freedom between 2012 and 2013: 34, including Vietnam and Venezuela
    • How many countries experienced a positive trajectory: 16, including Tunisia and Rwanda
  • Most commonly used types of Internet control in 60 countries according to Freedom on the Net 2013 Report:
    • blocking and filtering (29 countries including China and Iran)
    • cyberattacks against regime critics (examples: Bahrain and Belarus)
    • new laws and arrests (examples: Turkey and Bangladesh)
    • paid pro-government commentators (22 countries including Russia and Malaysia)
    • physical attacks and murder (26 countries including Egypt and Mexico)
    • surveillance
    • takedown requests and forced deletion (examples: Russia and Azerbaijan)
    • blanket blocking of social media and other ICT platforms (19 countries including Lebanon and Ethiopia)
    • holding intermediaries liable (22 countries including China and Brazil)
    • throttling or shutting down Internet and mobile services (examples: Egypt and Syria)

Take Down

  • Number of content removal requests submitted to Twitter from government agencies, police and courts in the first half of 2013: 60
  • How many content removal requests submitted in the first half of 2014: 432
  • Number of information requests received by Twitter in the first half of 2014: 2,058
  • How many times the U.S. government submitted user information requests to Twitter in the first half of 2014: 1,257 user information requests, 61% of all requests received
  • When Facebook began publishing Transparency reports about data requests made by government and law enforcement agencies: June 2013, in the wake of the NSA leak
  • Number of US law enforcement requests received by Facebook in the second half of 2013: 12,598 requests for information about 18,715 users
    • Percentage of requests for which Facebook produced some data: 81%


  • How many American adults surveyed who said they would be willing to discuss their views about government surveillance if it came up at various in-person scenarios, such as at a public meeting, at work or at a restaurant with friends: 86%
  • How many Facebook or Twitter users surveyed said they would be willing to post online about it: 42%
  • Percentage of Americans surveyed who are unwilling to discuss the Snowden case with others in person: 14%
  • How many of the remaining 14 percent of Americans who didn’t want to discuss Snowden in person were willing to discuss it on social media: 0.3%

Search Result Removals

  • When the “Right to be Forgotten” was instituted in the European Union: May 2014
  • Number of Right to be Forgotten requests Google has received to remove links between May and July: over 91,000
    • Number of web pages involved: more than 328,000
    • Percentage of requests that are granted on the first application: 53%
  • Most popular types of right to be forgotten requests submitted to Google as of June 2014: Invasion of privacy (28%), Defamation and insult (19%)
  • Most common reason for right to be forgotten requests within the “invasion of privacy” category: disclosure of home address (22%)
  • How many people submitted right to be forgotten requests within the “defamation and insult” category with the reason that their names have “been mentioned in matters which I am completely extraneous to”: 43%, most common reason
  • Number of requests from governments to remove content received by Google globally in the first half of 2013: 3,846
    • Number of items requested to be removed: 24,737
    • Number of requests from Turkish authorities: 1,673
      • How many Turkish requests called for the removal of content related to alleged violations of law 5651, which regulates crimes committed via the Internet: two-thirds
  • Top reasons given for government requests for content removal to Google since July 2010: defamation (35%), privacy and security (14%), adult content (13%)

Technical Blocking


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