In a further step in the direction of transcending governments, Google has decided to post a “Transparency Report” or a map of where it’s services are blocked in different foreign countries, in an effort to discourage “censorship.”
For those of you that have been following along, Google has had some governmental run-ins lately. Most recently in the news were the several hundreds of thousands of people who opted out of Google Streetview in Germany. A closer analysis of the Germany situation would have made it more clear that movements to restrict privacy in this case were actually a win for Google, as the German government came to the conclusion that it’d be great if Google would volunteer to protect data, but the company was not actually party to any governmental regulation.
From the Google blog:
“When Google’s services are blocked or filtered, we can’t serve our users effectively. That’s why we act every day to maximize free expression and access to information. To promote transparency around this flow of information, we’ve built an interactive online Transparency Report with tools that allow people to see where governments are demanding that we remove content and where Google services are being blocked. We believe that this kind of transparency can be a deterrent to censorship.”
And while the examples of the firewall in China and YouTube being down in Iran will be the talking points on this, let’s take a look at what country has more removal requests and data requests than any other. Yeah, that’s right none other than the bastion of freedom, the good ole U.S. of A. And China isn’t even included on the report, because apparently this data is considered a state secret, not to be published!
How transparent is that?
A quick peruse through the Google Transparency FAQ reads like some sort of special intelligence briefing.
- You may have noticed that there’s a question mark for content removal requests from China. As noted in the map, Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time. During the period that Google’s joint venture operated google.cn, its search results were subject to censorship pursuant to demands from government agencies responsible for Internet regulation. As we announced in June, users visiting the landing page on google.cn now see a link to google.com.hk – where users can conduct web search or continue to use google.cn services like music and text translate, which we can provide locally without filtering.
- The courts in Argentina issued two orders in the first half of 2010 that sought the removal of every search result mentioning a particular individual’s name in association with a certain category of content. The number of search results at issue well exceeds 100,000 results. On the map for Argentina, we did not attempt to approximate the number of individual items of content that might be encompassed by those two court orders. Google has appealed those orders.
- Libya, which did not appear on our list in 2009, issued 147 requests to YouTube in the first half of 2010, requesting the removal of more than 1,000 videos. We have not removed most of those videos, although we did partially comply with the majority of the requests (i.e., removing one or more videos in response to any given request, for violation of YouTube’s Community Guidelines).
- For Brazil, government requests for content removal are high relative to other countries in part because of the popularity of our social networking website, orkut.
The list continues …
Let’s get some perspective here: What if any other company in any other industry decided to do this? Like Oscar Meyer posting realtime updates of countries that didn’t eat hotdogs, as part of some initiative against hotdog censorship? Now I’m not saying that hotdog eating and the right to search freely are equivalent, just that regardless of whether you think lack of access to Google is censorship, business should not be confused with what is right, even if, like in this case, it happens to be.
So Google, you’re really serious about this taking over the world thing. Enough at least to post a page of realtime updates of the status of your conquests.