eBrandz Blog

Implications of Google’s content filtering provisions

Twitter encountered considerable backlash and criticism after making an announcement that it would be forming a new policy for country-by-country censorship largely aimed at blocking Tweets perceived to be in violation of local laws and governmental viewpoints. But now, it has emerged that Twitter was not the first online entity to devise a far-reaching framework for ‘conditional censorship’.

Just a couple of weeks prior to its announcement, the search engine major, Google, had subtly hinted so. It declared that it would now redirect Blogger visitors to country-specific domains that would allow it to block posts in countries that have stricter censorship laws in place.

Gradual roll out of content filtering plan

According to media reports, Google will be initially rolling out these changes to India, New Zealand, and Australia, with a plan in place to apply the content filtering measures globally. So, for instance, if a user in the country makes an attempt to access a free blog served from blogspot.com, for example, [blogname].blogspot.com, he or she would now be getting redirected to the ‘country-code top level domain’ (ccTLD) or [blogname].blogspot.com.in. The Google policy won’t affect Blogger blogs, which employ a custom domain.

Say, you are in Australia and checking [blogname].blogspot.com, it is possible to be redirected to [blogname].blogspot.com.au. In other words, A ccTLD, as and when it appears, actually corresponds with the country or current location of the reader. Google elaborates in an explanatory note as why is this happening:

“We routinely launch limited updates, so in the coming months you will see ccTLDs in additional countries. 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.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Blogger blogs will invariably be subject to censorship laws of the country. However, as it appears, Google is trying to be on the safer side when it comes to offending the authorities, though whether it accepts to censors everything it’s asked to by them or refuses to do so, is a different thing.

But the fact that it is ready to do so means that it is not averse to complying with requests for content blocking through blogspot.in domains. This process will be applicable to country-specific domains, as and when the need arises. Law enforcement agencies from different countries send several content removal requests for various reasons like national security and defamation, details of which are mentioned in the periodic Google’s Transparency Report.

Whether or not Google uses the policy to fulfill the censorship law provisions, Blogger users are likely to be affected in terms of the search rankings.