Freedom of Speech is Under Attack
Earlier this year we fought the battle against SOPA and PIPA, the draconian, Internet altering legislation that was awful for reasons both political and technological. Then there was CISPA, which wasn’t a government takeover of the Internet like SOPA and PIPA, but it put way too much power in the hands of the government.
We suspected that wouldn’t be the end of the fight for freedom online, and we were right. This week Google released another transparency report, showing requests from the second half of 2011 by government entities to have content removed. The scary thing is that much of this falls under the realm of personal expression.
Just looking at examples of requests from within the United States, Google was asked to:
- Remove a blog that had a post that allegedly defamed a law enforcement officer.
- Remove 1,400 YouTube videos for alleged harassment.
- Remove 5 YouTube accounts that had allegedly harassing and threatening videos.
- Remove 218 search results of web sites that linked to allegedly defamatory web sites.
The trend isn’t good. Government entities are asking Google to censor content, and they’re doing it more frequently than ever before. This is the third report of a six-month period of these requests that include requests from government bodies inside the United States. This report shows requests from within the U.S. were up 103% from the previous six months. The previous report saw an increase of 70% over the initial report that contained removal requests from American government entities.
Our government wants control of the Internet; this much is obvious. Google should be applauded for standing up against many of these requests and for publishing these transparency reports. Sure it would be better if Google rejected more than it already does, but as Peter Suderman so eloquently puts it:
“Google’s resistance to many of the worst offenders, as well as its transparency about the quantity and nature of the orders, suggests that if the Internet is to have gatekeepers, it’s better that they’re in the private sector. The push and pull between censorious government and a private service provider, compromised as it may be, seems preferable to allowing governments — even those of Western democracies — to have their way with the Internet.”
Indeed. The fight for freedom online will continue, with attacks disguised as protecting copyrighted works, sharing threat information, or for some other seemingly noble reason. We must remain vigilant in this battle. As John Adams once said, “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”