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Friday, February 9, 2007

Google Censorship API?

Technophilia and technophobia are the two extremes of the relationship between technology and society. The latter regards technology as destructive because it leads to a process of dehumanization and believes social reliance on technology is harmful. The former is a positive relationship, adopting technology enthusiastically, seeing it as a means to improve personal life and combat social problems.

Here’s a rough idea. Right now, every country’s government needs to manually suggest a list of places that need to be photoshopped for Google Maps, URLs of news sources that need to be removed from Google News, websites that need to be banned in web search results and so on. Even for those countries that do have automated ways to provide Google with the blacklist data, like Germany, there’s simply no standardization in place. Right now, as Google’s David Drummond told this blog, “From time to time, as you would expect, with any authority you have conversations about how that law should be applied in a particular circumstance.” Conversations take time – too much time, perhaps – and they demand a great deal of political instinct, which IT companies aren’t necessarily known for. From India to France to China, this whole thing is a clumsy procedure at best (sometimes causing downtimes of 10% when ignored, according to Google), and one that could improve a great deal with Silicon-Valley-style automation.

Introduce the Google censorship API – let’s call it Localized Information Erasure, LIE – which could speed up the blacklist submission process. The governments of the world would hire some additional programmers to connect the API to local databases. Google engineers could return to focus on what they’re best at – making government-approved information universally accessible and useful – and finally fully ignore specific morals at hand. Google Inc’s a truly global company, and it’s time it creates global solutions. In 2007 the world is at the brink of coming awfully close together through the magic that is the web: let’s do something to respect local laws, policies, and oppressions again. This might even turn into a cross-company solution supported by Yahoo, MSN, Ask and others. We need industry-wide, scalable solutions, and it’s painfully obvious by now that the concept of objectivity doesn’t scale.


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