Censorship by Google
Censorship by Google refers to Google's removal or omission of information from its services or subsidiary companies, such as YouTube, in order to comply with its company policies, legal demands, or various government censorship laws.
- 1 Google AdSense
- 2 Google News
- 3 Google Maps
- 4 Google Play
- 5 Google Search
- 6 Shareholder initiatives
- 7 YouTube
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In February 2003, Google stopped showing the advertisements of Oceana, a non-profit organization protesting a major cruise ship operation's sewage treatment practices. Google cited its editorial policy at the time, stating "Google does not accept advertising if the ad or site advocates against other individuals, groups, or organizations." The policy was later changed.
In April 2008, Google refused to run ads for a UK Christian group opposed to abortion, explaining that "At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain 'abortion and religion-related content.'"
Sites critical of Islam
In early 2006, Google removed several news sites from its news search engine because complaints were received about various articles that were critical of Islam. These included the The New Media Journal, which contained phrasing such as, "[in the] world of Islam ... it is common for the men to have multiple wives, and harvest many children with each of his wives to train for martyrdom." MichNews and The Jawa Report were among the other sites removed from Google News. These sites do remain accessible from Google's main search page as normal. Google responded to the change by stating, "We do not allow articles and sources expressly promoting hate speech viewpoints in Google News, although referencing hate speech for commentary and analysis is acceptable".
In March 2007, allegedly lower resolution satellite imagery on Google Maps showing post-Hurricane Katrina damage in the U.S. state of Louisiana was replaced with higher resolution images from before the storm. Google's official blog of April revealed that the imagery was still available in KML format on Google Earth or Google Maps.
In March 2008, Google removed street view and 360 degree images of military bases per the Pentagon's request.
To protect the privacy and anonymity of individuals Google Street View in Google Maps and Google Earth shows photographs containing car license number plates and people's faces by blurring them. In some countries (e.g. Germany) it modifies images of specific buildings. In the United States, Google Street View adjusts or omits certain images deemed of interest to national security by the federal government.
Removal of SafeSearch options
Following a settlement with the United States Food and Drug Administration ending Google Adwords advertising of Canadian pharmacies that permitted Americans access to cheaper prescriptions, Google agreed to several compliance and reporting measures to limit visibility of "rogue pharmacies". Google and other members of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies are collaborating to remove illegal pharmacies from search results, and participating in "Operation Pangea" with the FDA and Interpol.
In January 2010, Google was reported to have stopped providing automatic suggestions for any search beginning with the term "Islam is", while it continued to do so for other major religions. According to Wired.com, an unnamed Google spokesman stated, “this is a bug and we’re working to fix it as quickly as we can.” Suggestions for "Islam is" were available later that month. The word "Bilderberg" and the family name "Buchanan" were also reportedly censored in the auto-complete results, but were available by February 2010 as well. Nonetheless, Google continues to filter certain words from autocomplete suggestions, describing them as "potentially inappropriate".
The publication 2600: The Hacker Quarterly has compiled a list of words that are restricted by Google Instant. These are terms the web giant's new instant search feature will not search. Most terms are often vulgar and derogatory in nature, but some apparently irrelevant searches including "Myleak" are removed.
In 2013, the Swedish Language Council attempted to include the Swedish version of the word "ungoogleable" ("ogooglebar") in its list of new words. Google objected to its definition and the Council was forced to remove it to avoid legal confrontation with Google. There have been accusations that Google is trying to control the Swedish language.
Google adhered to the Internet censorship policies of China, enforced by means of filters colloquially known as "The Great Firewall of China" until March 2010. Google.cn search results were filtered so as not to bring up any results concerning the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, sites supporting the independence movements of Tibet and Taiwan, the Falun Gong movement, and other information perceived to be harmful to the People's Republic of China (PRC).
The Chinese government has restricted citizens' access to popular search engines such as Altavista, Yahoo!, and Google in the past. This complete ban has since been lifted[when?]. However, the government remains active in filtering Internet content. In October 2005, Blogger and access to the Google Cache were made available in mainland China; however, in December 2005, some mainland Chinese users of Blogger reported that their access to the site was once again restricted[who?].
In January 2006, Google confirmed its intent to filter certain keywords given to it by the government of the China. The restrictions apply to thousands of terms and websites. Google has claimed that some censorship is necessary in order to keep the Chinese government from blocking Google entirely, as occurred in 2002. The company claims it does not plan to give the government information about users who search for blocked content, and will inform users that content has been restricted if they attempt to search for it. Searchers may encounter a message which states: "In accordance with local laws and policies, some of the results have not been displayed."  As of 2009, Google is the only major China-based search engine to explicitly inform the user when search results are blocked or hidden.
Some Chinese Internet users have been critical of Google for assisting the Chinese government in repressing its own citizens, particularly those dissenting against the government and advocating for human rights.
Google has been denounced and called hypocritical by Reporters Without Borders for agreeing to China's demands while simultaneously fighting the United States government's requests for similar information.
In June 2009, Google was ordered by the Chinese government to block various overseas websites, including some with sexually explicit content. Google was criticized by the China Illegal Information Reporting Center (CIIRC) for allowing search results that included content that was sexual in nature, claiming the company was a dissemination channel for a “huge amount of porn and lewd content”.
On January 12, 2010, in response to an apparent hacking of Google's servers in an attempt to access information about Chinese dissidents, Google announced that “we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.”
On March 22, 2010, after talks with Chinese authorities failed to reach an agreement, the company redirected its censor-complying Google China service to its Google Hong Kong service, which is outside the jurisdiction of Chinese censorship laws. However, at least as of March 23, 2010, "The Great Firewall" continues to censor search results from the Hong Kong portal, www.google.com.hk (as it does with the US portal, www.google.com) for controversial terms such as "Falun gong" and "the June 4th incident" (Tiananmen Square incident). ”
Germany and France
On October 22, 2002, a study reported that approximately 113 Internet sites had been removed from the German and French versions of Google. This censorship mainly affected White Nationalist, Nazi, anti-semitic, radical Islamic websites and at least one fundamentalist Christian website. Under French and German law, hate speech and Holocaust denial are illegal. In the case of Germany, violent or sex-related sites such as YouPorn and BME that the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien deems harmful to youth are also censored.
Google has complied with these laws by not including sites containing such material in its search results. However, Google does list the number of excluded results at the bottom of the search result page and links to Chilling Effects for explanation.
On 21 September 2006, it was reported that Google had 'delisted' Inquisition 21st Century, a website which claims to challenge moral authoritarian and sexually absolutist ideas in the United Kingdom. According to Inquisition 21, Google was acting "in support of a campaign by law enforcement agencies in the US and UK to suppress emerging information about their involvement in major malpractice", allegedly exposed by their own investigation of and legal action against those who carried out Operation Ore, a far reaching and much criticized law enforcement campaign against the viewers of child pornography. Google released a press statement suggesting Inquisition 21 had attempted to manipulate search results.
In 2002 Google was found to have censored websites that provided information critical of Scientology, in compliance with the United States' DMCA legislation. Google replaced the banned results with links to the DMCA complaint that caused the site to be removed. The DMCA complaint contains the site to be removed, and the organizations that requested the removal. The publicity stemming from this incident was the impetus for Google's making public of the DMCA notices on the Chilling Effects archive, which archives legal threats made against Internet users and Internet sites.
In January 2010, Google Australia removed links to satirical website Encyclopedia Dramatica's "Aboriginal" article citing it as a violation of Australia's Racial Discrimination Act. After the website's domain change in 2011, the article resurfaced in Google Australia's search results.
On May 10, 2007, shareholders of Google voted down an anti-censorship proposal for the company. The text of the failed proposal stated that:
- Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet-restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
- The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
- The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
- Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
- Users should be informed about the company's data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
- The company will document all cases where legally binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.
David Drummond, senior vice president for corporate development, said "Pulling out of China, shutting down Google.cn, is just not the right thing to do at this point... but that's exactly what this proposal would do."
CEO Eric Schmidt and founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal. Together they hold 66.2 percent of Google's total shareholder voting power, meaning that they could themselves have declined the anti-censorship proposal.
YouTube blocked the account of Wael Abbas, an activist who posted videos of police brutality, voting irregularities and anti-government demonstrations[when?]. His account was subsequently restored[when?]. YouTube also removed a video produced by the American Life League which is critical of Planned Parenthood. It has since been restored[when?].
In 2006, Thailand blocked access to YouTube for users with Thai IP addresses. Thai authorities identified 20 offensive videos and demanded that Google remove them before it would unblock any YouTube content. In 2007 a Turkish judge ordered access to YouTube blocked because of content that insulted Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a crime under Turkish law. On February 22, 2008, Pakistan Telecommunications attempted to block regional access to YouTube following a government order. The attempt subsequently caused a worldwide YouTube blackout that took 2 hours to correct. Four days later, Pakistan Telecom lifted the ban after YouTube removed controversial religious comments made by a Dutch government official concerning Islam.
In October 2008, YouTube removed a video by Pat Condell titled Welcome to Saudi Britain; in response his fans re-uploaded the video themselves and the National Secular Society wrote to YouTube in protest. The video was eventually restored. During the December 2008 Gaza Strip airstrikes, YouTube removed videos of air strikes against Hamas that were posted by the IDF. During the 2008-2009 Gaza airstrikes, many videos that were criticizing Israel's actions in Gaza were being removed by Pro-Israeli groups such as The JIDF. Approximately 6 weeks before the 2009 New York City mayoral election, YouTube also suspended the account of New York City artist and citizen journalist Suzannah B. Troy, who posted videos criticizing the controversial change in term limits law that enabled Michael Bloomberg to run for a third mayoral term in 2009. Her account was subsequently restored.
On November 5, 2009 YouTube cancelled the account and all videos from Michael Patton of dogtv.com after Patton uploaded a short documentary style video  on his experience over the years with dogs, two of whom were fighting to the death until they were trained not to do so by Patton. In another blocked video, the camera caught a spontaneous dog attack on another dog. The fight is quickly stopped before any harm is done and instructions are given on how to break up dog fights which inevitably occur in multiple dog households.
Following the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings, the consequent video claim to the attacks by the Caucasus Emirate claimed 800,000 viewers in four days before it was removed, along with all videos of Doku Umarov, from the site. It was reported that over 300 videos from the Kavkaz Center were removed citing "inappropriate content." Russia was blamed for having pressured YouTube to take such measures.
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- Localized Google search result exclusions
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- Unofficial Google Censorship FAQ