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Tripping the transparency scales with Google


Tripping the transparency scales with Google

Google generally gets a bad rep for censorship imposed on its sites. However, the question we need to ask is whether the search company is to blame.

In order for the internet giant to operate in a given country, it must abide by that nation’s laws. When we think about governmental censorship, we tend to normally look at countries that have rather restrictive regimes (cough-China-cough).

Sadly, when we look at the facts, this isn’t actually as true as one might think.

Governments globally asked Google in 2013 to remove 39,374 items from its search results and subsidiary sites, such as YouTube.

Some of these were for perfectly valid reasons, such as bullying and harassment in newsfeeds. Others, however, were not so great.

From Brazil, according to its own Transparency Report, Google:

“…received a court order to remove a YouTube video that contained allegedly defamatory claims about the practices of a funeral home.”

The search company removed this video from Brazil only, with the rest of the world still able to see it.

It also received a request from the Colombian National Police over a rather offending blog that contained corruption accusations aimed at the force’s high command. However, Google did not remove this for “reasons of public interest”.

Meanwhile, there was also some from the USA, including a request to remove a video from YouTube showing alleged abuse of prison inmates. This request came from the Georgia Department of Corrections, although Google again did not remove this video, as it did not violate YouTube Community Guidelines.

The list goes on, but as you can see, the search giant, where possible and within the law, seems to try and keep information free from oppression and censorship.

The argument could be stated that it could withdraw from any over-restrictive country altogether, but that would serve no useful purpose. Also, I am sure that the citizens of any said country would feel more isolated if companies from other nations that do operate in an ethical and moral framework, however constrained, were to pull out completely.

Google does its fair share in trying to keep the internet a free and open place, but it can only do so much. However, credit where credit’s due, so thanks Google.

Mark Black

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