The End Of The Global Internet? Google's Blogger Starts Using Country-Specific Domains To Permit Local Censorship
from the it-was-good-while-it-lasted dept
Twitter has taken quite a lot of heat for putting in place the capability to block tweets on a geographical basis. This begins to look a little unfair in light of the fact that Google quietly adopted a similar policy before Twitter. That’s shown by the answer to a question on Google’s Blogger site about blogs being redirected to country-specific URLs, which at the time of writing was last updated on 9 January 2012. Here’s what it says:
Q: Why am I seeing a URL change?
A: 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 is quite frank about why it is doing this:
Q: Why is this happening?
A: 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.
This is not only what Twitter is doing, but employs exactly the same topsy-turvy logic: by enabling local censorship, we are promoting free expression. That in itself is obviously troubling, not least because Google may be setting off down a slippery slope that sees all of its services segmented by geography to avoid local problems. But there’s an even deeper issue.
If more and more companies follow the lead of Google and Twitter, as seems quite likely, it could represent the beginning of the end of the truly global Internet. In its place will be an increasingly balkanized online world subject to a patchwork of local laws. Looks like geography just made a comeback.