The governments of Western democracies are increasingly demanding political content be removed from the internet in a "troubling" sign of the state of free speech, according to online search giant Google.
While the company has always received politically motivated requests to take down information, it said the number coming from Western Europe was growing.
Among the worst culprits during the six months to December 2011 was Spain. Its Data Protection Authority made 14 requests to remove 270 search results linking to blogs and sites referencing public figures.
Google said the authority also demanded the removal of three blogs on Blogger and three videos hosted on YouTube, which it refused.
Google's senior policy analyst, Dorothy Chou, wrote in a blog post: "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."
Five YouTube accounts hosting videos allegedly promoting terrorism were removed following a request from Britain's Association of Police Officers.