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New Google Blogger Changes Enable Country-by-Country Censorship

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, February 2 2012

Google has begun redirecting blogs hosted on its Blogger service to geographically specific domains when accessed from certain countries in order to enable selective, country-by-country content removal, as was first noted by Techdows.

So far, Google seems to have turned on the redirection for users accessing blogs from India and Australia, for example. As Google notes in a help page that was updated on January 9th:

Over the coming weeks you might notice that the URL of a blog you're reading has been redirected to a country-code top level domain, or "ccTLD." For example, if you're in Australia and viewing [blogname].blogspot.com, you might be redirected [blogname].blogspot.com.au. A ccTLD, when it appears, corresponds with the country of the reader’s current location

Google says that it will be enabling the country-level domains in other countries in the coming months, then goes on to further explain the reasoning behind the redirections:

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.

Google's implementation of country-level domains in order to comply
with content-removal requests is similar to Twitter's recently announced policy of blocking tweets within a certain country when forced to do so by an applicable legal order, a move that sparked some criticism online. Internet freedom activists were largely okay with the move, saying that it struck a balance between the legal obligations of a company with global aspirations — it would be harder to apply U.S. law abroad and not local law with staff in each country — and the ideology of a company that has declared that the "tweets must flow." In Twitter's case, the deal seems more applicable to issues of copyright or cultural expectation, such as British superinjunctions or restrictions against Nazi material in France and Germany, than issues of political free speech in oppressive regimes, such as the tweets now flowing from Tahrir Square, where protesters are once again clashing with the military.

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