30 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2013
Date Written: September 2013
This Article identifies a gap between American free speech rhetoric and practice. We analyze data recently released by Google describing the official requests or demands to remove content made to the company by governments around the world between 2010 and 2012. Controlling for Internet penetration and Google’s relative market share in each country, we find that the international trends are not consistent with conventional wisdom. For example, the United States produces more removal demands based on allegedly defamatory content than most other countries, and vastly more than would be expected from the country responsible for New York Times v. Sullivan. Moreover, despite its reputation for being weak on privacy law, America’s removal demands based on privacy are nearly identical to the European Union’s. The results presented in this Article challenge long-held assumptions that American free speech values curb the country’s appetite for censorship.
Keywords: free speech, Google, content removal requests, defamatory content, privacy law, censorship
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