Google Joins Twitter in Move Toward Selective Censorship

Following Twitter's recent footsteps, Google announced that it would also begin censoring content on a country-to-country basis. Wired first broke the story that Google will be implementing changes to Blogger that will allow blog posts to be blocked in individual countries. Such changes include assigning sites hosted on the platform to country-specific domain names (for example, a blog registered in Australia would be identified with a .au domain). On Google's support website, the company responded preemptively to concerns about the new policy:

Migrating to localized domains will allow us to continue promoting free expression and responsible publishing while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests pursuant to local law. By utilizing ccTLDs, content removals can be managed on a per country basis, which will limit their impact to the smallest number of readers. Content removed due to a specific country’s law will only be removed from the relevant ccTLD.

Although the company has tried to quietly release the news to avoid the controversial outcry that Twitter faced last week, already people are seeing this move as a sign that American Internet companies are becoming too accommodating to regimes that practice censorship. The Daily Mail UK notes that blogging services were crucial to the Arab Spring, "acting as a conduit for news and carrying messages of freedom and democracy." Some free speech advocates have argued that Twitter and Google's new policies could be cutting off this conduit.

Others aren't too concerned with Google's changes to Blogger. Some argue that countries whose censorship practices pose a problem to freedom of expression are completely blocking American websites in the first place; building in the ability to block content selectively allows these sites to operate in more places than they would be able to otherwise. HuffPo noted that in 2010, during Google's scuffle with the Chinese government over censoring search results, the company upheld its principles of information access by redirecting Chinese users to the Hong Kong search engine. Stated Dick Costolo, a former Google employee and current Twitter CEO: "We can’t go into China … We would love for people in China to be able to use Twitter the way we want them to … but the current environment doesn’t enable us to do that.”