Google vs. Government censorship

Google wants to organise the world's information...but will get rid of what it doesn't like

Tags: CensorshipEgyptGoogle IncorporatedSaudi ArabiaUSAUnited Arab EmiratesUnited Kingdom
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By  Vineetha Menon Published  April 25, 2010

I've always loved Google, even if I never completely understood why. Like a student so in awe of that one teacher who has the ability to make a subject come alive.

Google's mission statement is to ‘organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful' and I have no doubt that they will achieve this, but I admit to being rather intimidated by it.

Imagine a world where Google rules because everything gets connected to its magical servers, and that we all become Google people with a screen stapled on our bodies, displaying everything there is to know about us as organised by G.

Silly, I know. But all paranoia serves a purpose, even if it's just to find a relation with something real. If Google knows everything about us and the world, I want to know more about Google and how it works.

Most people don't realise that Google censors all its products globally, including Search, YouTube and Blogger, regardless of where you are in the world. Google Search, for example, gets rid of child pornography and links to copyrighted material and known malware. All good things in my opinion but Google's policies are constantly evolving.

Rachel Whetstone, the VP Global Communications and Public Affairs, recently stated in a blog post that: "Decisions to allow, restrict or remove content from our services and products often require difficult judgment calls". In other words, Google decides what is acceptable or not, regardless of who comes down on them.

And many have. Including those from government agencies around the world. Some of the leading democratic countries including the United Kingdom and United States, that are known to be staunch supporters of the right to free speech and fair play, have asked them to remove specific content and even to disclose private user data. Google independently analyses each request and then decides whether to comply or not. Privacy is in the eye of the beholder after all.

While the Arab world has come under criticism for its control over the WWW, no Middle Eastern countries (save for Israel) made it on to Google's list of baddies. It may be because those governments already have sufficient controls in place so that controversial content remains inaccessible, or the fact that emerging markets are still learning the ropes and tend to go about achieving the same results in other ways. But government censorship and surveillance are two sides of the same coin, and no country can claim to not want or have it in their pockets.

Google's admission that it makes ‘judgement calls' on what should be allowed online through its products is not alarming but the realisation that it will undoubtedly affect their mission to organise the world's information is, because it involves censorship based on their rules.

In the end, it might just come down to this - do I want the government to control and dictate my online experience....or Google?

2664 days ago

Google is the most powerful company in the world right now and we should be very scared.

3247 days ago

Not only what we search for, also the information we make available to Google or any other Internet site, specially Social networking ones. For casual stuff we could use webmails but for confidential material like banking and other private matters we should use private mail server

3248 days ago
Erin Smith

There is enough reason be paranoid. And who knows which one is the lesser evil - a profit-hungry private enterprise or a control-freak govt.

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