|Everyone Draw Muhammad Day ~ cartoon|
Google's new Transparency Report tool exposes government requests for data and attempts at censorship around the world.
Google has launched a new set of tools to give users greater insight into government attempts to block online content, in a move that it hopes will act as a deterrent to censorship.
The new interactive Transparency Report allows users to track whether traffic disruption is due to mechanical outages or is a result of government intervention. It also provides a number of graphs showing traffic patterns over time for a given country and service, visualising disruptions in the free flow of information. Graphs are updated as data is collected.
For example, users can see that YouTube has not been available in China since March 2009, and has also been inaccessible in Iran since June 2009, following the disputed presidential election. Meanwhile, the video channel was banned in Pakistan for 10 days in May 2010, due to concerns around the “Everyone Draw Mohammad Day” competition organised by a Facebook user.
“Free expression is one of our core values. We believe that more information means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual,” said David Drummond, SVP of Google’s corporate development in a blog post.
“Free expression is, of course, also at the heart of Google’s business. Our products are specifically designed to help people create, communicate, share opinions and find information across the globe,” he added. “We hope this step toward greater transparency – and these tools – will help in ongoing discussions about the free flow of information.” [..]
When the Government Requests map was first launched, Drummond emphasised that the vast majority of requests made by governments were valid and that the information needed was often for legitimate criminal investigations. “However, data about these activities historically has not been broadly available. We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship,” he said.