Monday, June 18, 2012

US, and other western governments, trying to get "troublesome" search results and even blog posts removed


CNN is reporting that Google has released a report showing a shocking frequency of requests from western governments, especially the United States itself, to censor search results and sometimes even remove blog posts, on matters embarrassing to some public officials.

The iGoogle welcome page for account holders presented a link to the story by John D. Sutter on Monday morning, link here

Google’s specific page on this Transparency Report is here and it is rather shocking.  Many to most requests from the U.S. were not honored, but a few YouTube accounts were closed apparently because of intimidating content.    Some requests from Spain were rather over-the-top.  But Google did have to comply with a court order from Germany on the removal of some sensitive content that was apparently “not credible”.

The company, on another page, discusses requests to remove search results that link to infringing content.  A lot of this content comes from Microsoft or NBC-Universal.  That page is here

It's likely that MSN's Bing and Yahoo! safe search (on Firefox) has received similar requests but hasn't reported the problem yet to the media. 

I have, perhaps on three occasions over fifteen years, removed small amounts of content from my web sites when asked to by specific individuals.  In all of these cases, the circumstances were unusual or bizarre, possibly harmful to the person involved, and not likely to recur with others.

A blogger has no way to know if a site linked is infringing.  I generally won’t embed YouTube videos that I actually think are likely to be infringing.  I prefer embeds from the sources that actually own the original material (like film distributors).  Sometimes embedded YouTube videos, while still identifying the items, will not play and display a notice that the account holder has been terminated because of repeated copyright complaints, often by copyright owners other than the company owning the material in the specific embed.  
When I find these (randomly) I remove or (usually) replace them.  Over time, some embeds on older posts, just like some links, will fail.

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