Google Blogoscoped

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

International Removals of Google Results

[Your search - - did not match any documents ... In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 1987 result(s) from this page ...]

When Google removes something from their search results due to local laws and policies (or what the sender of a complaint perceives as such), they sometimes push an alert of this notice to the Chilling Effects website. A Google spokesperson tells me:

Google abides by the local laws of every country in which we have a Google domain, including China, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and many others. This means that we remove content from a domain if it is illegal according to that country’s laws and regulations. Many countries have laws prohibiting defamation, for instance, and we remove content that is considered defamatory from such domains.

We provide users with clear notification whenever links have been removed from our search results in response to local laws and regulations and, in order to provide transparency into the nature of removal requests we receive and process, we send all legal removal requests to Chilling Effects

A special page on Chilling Effects collects the international complaints on which Google reacted. The countries listed where pages were removed from results are Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK (note that this special Chilling Effects overview page is incomplete though, as a comparison search for “Google” shows).

Different countries have different laws; in Germany, for instance, it’s illegal to show Nazi symbols like the swastika (the whole of is missing in, as the screenshot above shows), whereas in China it may be illegal to publish documents promoting the Falun Gong organization. (Whether you agree with particular removals or not, one side-effect is that these “blind spots” make it harder to research a topic – including making it harder to research crime.) Some of the many removal notices appearing on Chilling Effects are*:

China Mainland after 2006 – the year Google agreed to remove e.g. human rights watch groups from their China results – is interestingly enough missing from this Chilling Effects list. So far Google was not available to comment on the reasons for that. It might well be that more grand-scale government requests are handled via central databases which by-pass Chilling Effects. For instance, in Germany one such database is provided by the “Association for the Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers,” which Google is part of (according to the organization). Google to my knowledge never publicly commented on the kind of process they’re using in China; if they’re just abiding Chinese laws and regulations, I wonder why they cannot talk about it.

*This list includes cases in which Google acts as host, like with Blogspot, or where they act as a mix of search engine and host, like with Google Groups (Google acquired the Usenet archive from Deja some years ago, and made it searchable).


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