Google As Censor

Google bans sexually explicit content on Blogger by Lisa Vaas.

From the post:

Google hasn’t changed its policy’s messaging around censorship, stating that “censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.”

How Google will manage, with Blogger, to increase “the availability of information, [encourage] healthy debate, and [make] possible new connections between people” while still curbing “abuses that threaten our ability to provide this service and the freedom of expression it encourages” remains to be seen.

I wrote an entire post, complete with Supreme Court citations, etc., on the basis that Google was really trying to be a moral censor without saying so. As I neared the end of the post, the penny dropped and the explanation for Google’s banning of “sexually explicit content” became clear.

Read that last part of the Google quote carefully:

“abuses that threaten our ability to provide this service and the freedom of expression it encourages”

Who would have the power to threaten Google’s sponsorship of Blogger and “the freedom of expression it encourages?”

Hmmm, does China come to mind?

China relaxes on pornography but YouTube is still blocked by Malcolm Moore.

Whether China is planning on new restrictions on pornography in general or Google is attempting to sweeten a deal with China by self-policing isn’t clear.

I find that a great deal more plausible than thinking Google has suddenly lost interest what can be highly lucrative content.

When they see “sexually explicit content” Google and its offended Chinese censor buddies:

could effectively avoid further bombardment of their sensibilities simply by averting their eyes.

Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).

Averting your eyes is even easier with a web browser because you have to seek out the offensive content. If material offends you, don’t go there. Problem solved.

Google’s role as censor isn’t going to start with deleting large numbers of books from Google Books and heavy handed censoring of search results.

No, Google will start by censoring IS and other groups unpopular with one government or another. Then, as here, Google will move up to making some content harder to post, again at the behest of some government. By the time Google censorship reaches you, the principle of censorship will be well established and the only question left being where the line is drawn.

PS: Obviously I am speculating that China is behind the censoring of Blogger by Google but let’s first call this action what it is in fact: censorship. I don’t have any cables between China and Google but I feel sure someone does. Perhaps there is a leaky Google employee who can clear up this mystery for us all.

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