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google’s global barriers

Wednesday 28 April, 2010

I caught this article by Jessica Guynn in the Chicago Tribune Google faces censorship issues every day, around the world I don’t think there’s a lot of new news here, but because it’s google & global, I feel compelled to comment. Here’s the tool to which the author refers http://www.google.com/governmentrequests/

That other governments, in addition to China’s, censor the internet should be no surprise, especially when 1 is Iran.  Countries that are democracies & censor should be named, but aren’t in the article.  Without knowing what the specific requests to remove content are, it’s difficult to know the scope & scale of the issue.  100+ might be significant, but fewer might not be.  The German government being the 2nd largest requester & the US comes 2 spots behind them is a surprise to me.   I think part of the issue is the technology level available to governments, i.e. that they have to move just as quickly to filter content as google & other providers make it available.  That censorship is growing is simply a matter of governments being able to do it better now than they’ve been able to in the past, as opposed to the intent to censor, which has always been there.

There are American biases at work here as well.  I would bet it’s American consumer groups, academics, & companies that are so alarmed.  I seriously doubt the author’s claim that Google processes 2/3 of the world’s search requests.  If it only gets such a small % (5-10%?) in China, I doubt that that figure is possible.  Americans jumping up & down screaming bloody murder without knowing the context of the situation is not persuasive.

While I agree restrictions on the web are bad in general, turning over personal information about users as part of criminal investigations isn’t always a bad thing.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that these things happen.  The same thing occurs in many other walks of life in these countries & the internet is no different.  Because it was new technology, it had free reign for awhile, but the bureaucrats eventually do catch up.  If we’re going to criticize these governments for censoring the internet, we should be just as vocal when they censor other media, but now I think it’s simply commonly accepted, so it doesn’t get the exposure.

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