Did you know that countries like Russia or America can remove content from Google and YouTube if they don't like it? It's a thing that a surprisingly large number of countries utilise to keep the content we can all see online in line with the laws or general whims of whoever's in charge.
We actually get semi-regular updates on this process thanks to blog posts that Google put up. The latest one just came out, and it's revealed the countries that have made the most requests for removals. It's actually quite interesting, though there are no prizes for guessing the number one in this ranking.
Russia bans a lot of content
According to the post, the top spot for this particular "best of" list belongs to Russia. The rest of the list is India, South Korea, Turkey, Pakistan, Brazil, United States, Australia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. These bannings are based on local laws, so are also sort of linked to whoever is in charge and their take on morality.
Well, actually, it's less about morality and more about legality, as Google explains in the blog post. "We review these demands carefully to determine if the content that is the subject of the request violates a specific local legal requirement. Because we value access to information, we work to minimize over-reaching removals whenever possible by seeking to narrow the scope of government demands and ensure that they are authorized by relevant laws." That's probably a good thing, although if the people in charge want to do so they can just publish laws to make certain things illegal online, even if it seems absurd.
In fact, the blog post even says, "We’re also seeing a significant increase in the number of laws that require information to be removed from online services." It's not all needless censorship, with some things being due to hate speech and medical misinformation, but some of it's also just labelled under "adult content," which is vague enough to be disconcerting.
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A disconcerting trend
Along with the increase in laws that restrict the information we all see, Google has also noticed "new laws that impose individual liability on local employees for actions taken by a company offering online services." It's something that is worrying because it means people can be held responsible for something they've literally not done, which means people can be scapegoated in easier ways than ever before.
The blog post ends with, "any survey of international laws introduced over the past few years all point to the fact that we are likely to continue to see a rise in these types of laws across more countries around the world." In short, censorship does, in fact, seem to be on the rise. That's not people being banned on Twitter for being intensely racist or bigoted, by the way, that's the more disconcerting stuff where lawmakers limit our ability to tell the truth about the basis of our countries, our own histories, and the things that we need to be aware of in order to move towards a fairer society.
On the plus side though, at least companies will be making money off of all of this? That doesn't seem like a plus. Maybe the plus side is that people will still talk about cancel culture as though it's censorship instead of just consequences, and those same people aren't kicking off about the increase in genuine censorship? Maybe there's just no upside here.
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