Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday 22 February 2012

The mystery of country-specific URL re-directs explained

I have noticed very recently that visitors to various blogs (including my own) are being re-directed to country-specific URLs when visited by readers from specific countries. So far I have seen variants of my blog (whose true URL is ending in:
.IN (for India) (for Australia) (for New Zealand).

A quick search on Google (where else!) reveals that this is no mere fluke. It is a practice being rolled out by Google/Blogger across various countries (starting with India, apparently) as a way of putting in place country-specific 'filtering' of content to 'comply with local laws' - or CENSORSHIP to you or me! You can read Google's rationale for this here.

I am surmising this is all the fall-out from the recent difficulties that Google had experienced in China, where it agreed initially to comply with censorship reqirements there by filtering out content viewable there that the government there did not like, until later it decided to pull out of China entirely, after an international outcry. This new mechanism presumably gives Google the ability more easily to censor content viewable from specific jurisdictions and thus 'comply with local laws' more readily (CENSORSHIP in other words!) whilst in theory not affecting content viewable elsewhere.

Whilst one cannot imagine plausibly that countries such as Australia or New Zealand, perhaps India too, are going to attempt to censor content viewable in their territories, what this change means is that the building blocks are being put in place, for commercial reasons, by Google to allow them to protect their own business interests with possibly immense negative consequences for freedom of information and speech.

Google may choose to call this 'complying with local laws', I call it what it is:

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