The interesting thing about ideas and rights, is the fact that it is very easy to express solidarity with them. However, when push comes to shove, how many of us find it practical to actually stand for those ideals. More and more, technology companies find themselves facing this conundrum. And as per a leaked research report from Google, the decision is as difficult for them, as it is for us.
The presentation, which is based on research conducted by Google employees, includes contributions from journalists, academics, and cultural critics. It was first leaked to Breitbart News, following which Google decided to publish it in full. Suggestively titled “The Good Censor”, the presentation gives us an in-depth look at how tech giants such as Google, are struggling to maintain balance between freedom of expression over the internet, and censorship.
The internet is the biggest medium for free speech. The presentation affirms that, and adds that freedom of expression was one of the core pillars of the silicon Valley. The presentation argues that while this freedom continues to be important, threats, fake news, trolling and propaganda, have also emerged as a result. This had attracted government attention, and as the scope of the internet has grown, so has demands for censorship.
The report mentions the fact that content take down requests from governments have tripled in the last two years. The majority of these requests are aimed towards YouTube, with Google search coming a close second. Of course, Google is not the only company struggling with this issue. Major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter etc. have also seen an increase in government interference, and a public outcry against content that misuses the freedom of speech. Many of them have opened up additional staff positions to address this issue, however, a permanent solution to this issue is still not on the horizon.
The Good Censor acknowledges both sides of the coin, and goes on to state that establishing transparency, consistency, and responsiveness is the only way to maintain a balance between censorship and freedom.
Of course, Google’s take on the whole issue is interesting, since the company appears to have capitulated under pressure from the Chinese government, and in face of strong opposition from lawmakers, is actively engaged in building a custom search engine for the dragon.
The company did have the grace to say that The Good Censor wasn’t and official take from Google, but instead, was independent research from company employees – many of whom it should be mentioned, have resigned or spoken out against Project Dragonfly. However, that is neither here nor there.
Meanwhile, you can view the full report by clicking this link.