Google Censorship

When people think of Google censoring search results, China is the first nation that comes to mind, and not without reason. Until March 2010, Google had submitted to China's Internet censorship policies, blocking search results that discussed the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Taiwan independence movement, etc. For an idea of the topics censored, the following chart is helpful:

Google was heavily criticized for going against its own public philosophy of a generally open Internet; Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO once said that "The prize is a world in which every human being starts life with the same access to information, the same opportunities to learn and the same power to communicate. I believe that is worth fighting for"). However, a company statement argued that while removing search results is inconsistent with their beliefs, it is preferable to not being able to operate in China at all. Because of these criticisms, Google announced in January 2010 that it was no longer willing to censor operations. When talks in March with the Chinese government fell through, Google decided to use a strategy where all hits to were redirected to, a Hong Kong based domain outside of China's jurisdiction.

Google is making an active effort to stick to their philosophy of an open Internet. In September 2010, Google released a tool called Google Transparency. This tool highlights instances of global Internet censorship in different countries by displaying the number of requests from these different governments to remove content from Google's services. Check it out here:

While many may be familiar with Google content being censored in China, the number of Internet censorship requests in other nations may be shocking. Dorothy Chou, a policy analyst who worked on Google Transparency, notes, "the threat to internet freedom has actually been growing over the past few years…Countries that would be thought less likely to filter the internet also try". For example, Thailand bans offensive representations of the Thai King, Germany bans neo-Nazi content, Turkey bans YouTube, etc. In France and Germany, approximately 113 websites were removed from those versions of Google. In Europe, individual privacy concerns generally outweigh free speech considerations, conflicting directly with Google's ideal desire for an open Internet everywhere. Google practices self-censorship in countries wherever its search results may display content banned by the respective country's censorship laws.

An interesting example of censorship that is not immediately obvious is present in Google's Street View on Google maps. For example, Google does not have street view of military bases because the Pentagon requested that Google took those images down for security purposes. Also, in late February, the EU suggested that Google's street-view is a breach of EU privacy laws.