New Tool Shows Global Blocking, Censorship of Google Services

Google has launched a new tool, the Transparency Report, which shows a global picture of both government requests to remove or censor content, as well as traffic patterns, which could indicate where Google is being blocked (or alternatively, where there is an outage).

You can click on countries to see more details. Interestingly, the country with the most requests appears to be the U.S. That, however, may not be correct; it's possible that China has more and Google simply can't reveal it. The reason for that is revealed by clicking on China on the Government Requests map; the message states, "Chinese officials consider censorship demands to be state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time."

The Traffic tool can be used to show disruptions in service, whether or not the interruptions are "related to mechanical outages or are government-induced." The graph there can be shown per country, and per Google service, as well. For example, take a look at Iran, and see what YouTube looks like. It's a flatline, as it's been blocked since mid-July 2009, after the disputed elections.

It's an interesting set of tools, particularly when one thinks about the issues Google has had with China. David Drummond, SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer said in a blog post,
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. 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. We hope this step toward greater transparency—and these tools—will help in ongoing discussions about the free flow of information.