By Dan Worth
Google has revealed a global trend of internet censorship by admitting that many of its products, such as search, Docs, Blogger and YouTube, are blocked in 25 of the 100 countries where it operates.
Rachel Whetstone, Google’s vice president for global communications and public affairs, said in a blog post that the firm is routinely asked by national governments to remove certain information.
“We regularly receive government requests to restrict or remove content. When we receive those requests, we examine them closely to ensure they comply with the law, and if we think they’re overly broad we attempt to narrow them down,” she said.
Whetstone cited China as a prime example of this censorship, but explained that Google often runs into conflicts when asked to impose national laws on a global basis.
The Turkish government, for example, had asked Google to implement a worldwide ban on YouTube videos that it claims insult the country’s founder. When Google refused, arguing that Turkish law cannot apply outside Turkey, the service was blocked.
“If there are local laws where we do business that prohibit content that would otherwise be allowed, we restrict access to that content only in the country that prohibits it,” Whetstone explained.
Google declined to name any additional countries that censor or block its services.
But Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has made no secret of his desire for YouTube to voluntarily censor content that would otherwise be difficult to block using the Federal Government’s planned filter.
By highlighting the human rights problems in various regions, the web giant could also be treading a fine line, given that its own record on privacy is coming under increased scrutiny.
Google Buzz, for example, has been heavily criticised for making users’ information public, and 10 privacy commissioners from major nations, including the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, have asked the company to be more vigilant with its data.
Google Street View has also been criticised for impinging on people’s privacy, and acting as a “service for burglars”.
~ Bonn Appetite