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News 11 Feb 15

Kosovo Sought Removal of Wiretaps from YouTube

Google transparency report reveals that in December 2012 the Kosovo government requested the removal of embarrassing wire taps from YouTube.

Besar Likmeta


Kosovo FM and PDK leader Hashim Thaci | Photo by :AP

A transparency report by Google, which contains data on government requests for user information and requests to remove material from the net, says the US internet giant received four requests from the government of Kosovo to remove content.

“We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove five YouTube videos that allegedly violated the privacy of politicians, by disclosing recorded conversations,” the Google report says, adding that it did not remove the material.

The request, made from July to December 2012, refer to wiretaps posted on YouTube, which revealed the power struggle raging in the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, led by Hashim Thaci.

In the recordings, which the PDK has always said were fakes, Thaci appears a deeply suspicious leader, trying to reassert control over the party's fractured ranks, while different PDK leaders use coarse language to describe each other.   

The PDK at the time denounced the recordings as fake and called on the European Union’s rule of law mission, EULEX, to investigate what it called “fabricated tapping”. EULEX duly condemned the release of the recordings, but did not dispute their authenticity.

“EULEX deplores the fact that the phone intercepts ended up in the public domain,” it stated.

The second request from Kosovo to Google to remove material came in the period between July and December 2013, when “law enforcement requested the removal of two YouTube videos showing minors fighting.”

Google says it had already removed the videos before the request arrived because they violated community guidelines.

The search giant did not offer details of the other two requests it received from Kosovo but specified that in total it was asked to remove 12 items.

Kosovo is not the only country in the region that asked Google to remove materials from the internet.

Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted one request to remove a blog post it called defamatory. Macedonia made two requests in 2012 to remove YouTube videos, one citing national security concerns and another privacy issues.

Croatia made two requests, one in 2010 and another in 2012, based on defamation and copyright. Bulgaria has also made two requests and Serbia only one.

The regional leader in terms of requests to remove material from Google is Romania, which made eight requests, more than any other country in the region.  

Apart from requests to remove material, different law enforcement agencies in Southeast Europe also sought user account data from Google, with the majority of the requests coming again from Romania.

In 2013 and 2014 Romania filed 36 information requests with Google seeking information on 89 users of accounts. Other countries that filed requests are Albania, Croatia, Kosovo and Bulgaria.

If requests to remove material are filed directly with Google, requests for user data have to be made through US embassies and the US justice Department through mutual legal assistance requests.  


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