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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Some Google Groups Posts Removed in Germany

Gary Price of ResourceShelf informs me that there are new cases of censorship in Google Germany, but this time, in Google Groups, as Chilling Effects shows. Considering that Google has a quasi-monopoly on the Usenet archive, this is unsettling, especially as all of this happens in the background and we don’t know which posts have been removed. (We do know the reason for the removal; it supposedly contained hate speech/ “Volksverhetzung,” e.g. promoting Nazi opinions). In China, Google only blocks a path to the censored sites, and the Chinese gov’t is responsible for blocking the sites themselves; with Google Groups, Google actually holds the newsgroup content on their servers.

It’s also noteworthy that Google CEO Eric Schmidt already used censorship “standards" for Google Germany in defense of what is happening with Google China*. As you may know, Google earlier this year changed their help entry on censorship from “Google does not censor results for any search term” to “It is Google¬ís policy not to censor search results. However, in response to local laws, regulations, or policies, we may do so.”

Previously in Germany, censored search results were not always disclosed as such, but that behavior has changed in the aftermath of Google China criticism. Now when you search for e.g. “stormfront” in Google.de, the result page discloses that “3 results have been removed from the page for legal reasons.” I can’t test the Google Groups behavior for the recent removals, as I don’t know the posts in question, or the search keywords that led to them.

*Quote AP from April this year: “Asked whether Google might try to persuade Beijing to change its restrictions, Schmidt said he didn’t rule anything out, but said it hasn’t tried to change such limits elsewhere. He noted that Google’s site in Germany is barred from linking to Nazi-oriented material. ’There are many cases where certain information is not available due to local law or local custom,’ he said.”

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