Just a short while ago, the Internet was abuzz with discussions about SOPA and the drastic effect this bill could have. Not long after the bill was shelved, file-sharing site Megaupload was taken down. Next, Twitter announced that it would be censoring Tweets in specific countries. And most recently, Google has come out saying it too would be censoring its widely-used blogging platform, Blogger, on a country-by-country basis as well. While in the past, some Internet users could have gotten away without caring about or even being aware of such censorship, it is becoming more and more difficult for even the common day user to ignore the direction that the digital world is taking.
Twitter’s recent policy changes may be the most interesting. Late last week, the company posted on its blog saying that it would take a reactive approach to removing Tweets, meaning that it will censor content only after a request is made to have it taken down. The content will, however, still be “available to users in the rest of the world,” as the blog post reads. Doesn’t this almost guarantee an increase in site traffic for this flagged content? Who wouldn’t want to read or watch something that another country has deemed inappropriate? We as humans are inherently curious about this sort of thing!
Google’s popular blog-publishing service, Blogger, also announced recently that in the coming weeks it will begin rerouting Blogger’s blog pages to country-specific URLs. For example, if you are in France visiting a “blogspot.com” site, the servers will automatically detect your IP address and redirect you to “blogspot.fr”. Creating a localized domain will allow Google to be able to remove content in a specific country but still have it available for U.S. readers and potentially other countries’ as well.
While both Twitter and Google, as well as any other site that may follow, are simply doing their best to adhere to local laws, this is a clear step backwards in our current digital era. Despite this censorship being implemented mainly for non-U.S. countries, it does bring many questions to the table. Weren’t these social networks created so people can share their own opinions and express themselves freely? Where will these attacks on free speech end? And what can we do to make them stop?