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[liberationtech] "Google releases censorship tool"

Yishay Mor yishaym at
Wed Sep 22 01:35:06 PDT 2010

The US government asked Google for user information 4,287 times during the
first six months of 2010.

During the same timeframe the UK government put in over 1,000 such requests.

This is just two snippets from Google's new Transparency Report, a set of
tools designed to show censorship levels around the globe.

Civil liberty groups welcomed the tool but called on Google to provide even
more detail about the requests.

Earlier this year, Google released details about how often countries around
the world ask it to hand over user data or to censor information.

The new map and tools follows on from that and allows users to click an
individual country to see how many removal requests were fully or partially
complied with, as well as which Google services were affected.
Continue reading the main

   - China renews Google web licence <>
   - Google stops censoring in
   - Google shows official data

In the US, for example, there were seven court orders to remove content from
YouTube from July 2009 to the end of the year.

There is also a traffic graph showing Google services around the world and
related traffic outages, caused either by governments blocking access to
information or, more mundanely, cables being cut.

Google's public policy head Scott Rubin demonstrated the tool to the BBC.

"Last year after the Iranian elections access to the internet was cut off
and we saw a sudden drop in traffic to YouTube," he said.

Civil liberties groups said the tool would prove invaluable to activists
determined to plot against government censorship around the globe.

"I think it is a tremendous initiative and it would be helpful if other
networks could do the same thing," said Lilian Edwards, professor of
internet law at the University of Sheffield and board member of the Open
Rights Group.

"I think there will be some embarrassing data and it will vary from country
to country. The UK is neither the best or the worst," she said.

More data about the nature of the requests would be useful, she added.

"It would be interesting to see whether these take-downs refer to libel,
surveillance and intercepts or the content industries. The more data we have
the more useful it will be," she said.

"It would, for example, be interesting to compare Google's data with
published UK surveillance requests."

*Free expression*

Google can provide such data and is examining whether it can release more
detail about the requests.
Continue reading the main

 We believe that more information means more choice, more freedom and
ultimately more power for the individual”

David DrummondChief legal officer, Google

Explaining the genesis of the tool, David Drummond, Google's chief legal
officer wrote in the official blog: "When Google's services are blocked or
filtered, we can't serve our users effectively. That's why we act every day
to maximize free expression and access to information.

"Free expression is one of our core values. We believe that more information
means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the
individual," he added.

Google is keen to reassert its freedom of expression credentials after a
very public spat with the Chinese government over censorship.

It threatened to pull the plug on services when it emerged that the
authorities had been spying on some Gmail accounts.

It began re-routing traffic via Hong Kong but in June agreed to tweak the
system to placate the Chinese government.

In July its license to do business in China was renewed.

Data on information requests from China is absent from the current map.

"Chinese officials consider censorship demands to be state secrets so we
cannot disclose that information at this time," said Google

  Yishay Mor, London Knowledge Lab
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