From Insider Pro:
The progression is clear. At first, the internet was an uncensored free-for-all where anyone could publish anything and the search engines did their best to index it all.
Eventually, national governments began requiring search engines to censor according to national law. So Google and others introduced country-specific versions where local censorship was contained in-country.
The internet has entered a new phase, where the dark side of information globalization becomes more apparent in our everyday activity
And then the worst fears of free speech advocates were realized. Governments began insisting that global internet resources censor content based on local, national norms, laws and court rulings.
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The truth is that Google has long been censored globally based on the laws of one nation. That nation was the United States. For example, Google has been actively and globally censoring in accordance with the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act for years.
There is no U.S.-specific version of Google. There’s regular Google, which is subject to censorship according to U.S. law, and now there are nation-specific versions subject to the local laws of those countries. Still, U.S.-driven censorship has been minimal because of the First Amendment and a cultural norm of generally tolerating free-speech in the U.S.
But now that foreign governments have started to assert their rights to censor Google globally, we’re entering new territory.
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The first case of global censorship came from Canada. Canada’s Supreme Court of B.C. in 2017 upheld a B.C. court ruling ordering Google to remove from its search results the website of a company found guilty of re-labelling the networking technology of a Canadian company and selling the equipment as its own.
In practice, the case is reasonable. The offending website linked to a fraudulent company. The legitimate company’s products were sold globally. So a global ban on the search result made sense.
In principle, however, a national government is forcing the censorship of search results globally base on its own laws. What happens when all governments assert the same right?
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Last month, the European Court of Justice rejected France’s attempt to impose the European Union’s right-to-be-forgotten rules globally. (The right to be forgotten is a legal requirement for search engines to remove search results linking to stigmatizing content about EU citizens no longer current when petitioned to do so by the stigmatized.) But that’s not the end of the story. The court explicitly left open the possibility that the EU could require global right-to-be-forgotten censorship in the future.
The most crushing European blow to free speech came in the form of a ruling against Facebook. Recently, the European court of Justice ruled that Austria can require Facebook to remove a 2016 Facebook post globally that criticized an Austrian politician. The post called her a “lousy traitor,” “corrupt oaf,” and member of a “fascist party,” and this kind of criticism of a politician is counter to Austrian norms.
The precedent means that any leader — any dictator or corrupt oaf — can assert the right to force social networks worldwide to remove criticism.
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The Chinese government is the most skillful censor in the world, able to censor social posts in real-time, use stigmatization and inconvenience embedded in its “Social Credit System” to temper speech and also keep the world’s internet at bay with its famous “Great Firewall.” This is all reserved for Chinese citizens inside China.
China has its own multifaceted approach to censoring outside of China. One of them is similar to how Canada, Europe and others have done it, which is to threaten restricted access to the enormous Chinese market if content isn’t censored as required.
The difference is that China can’t effect this threat through search engines and social networks, because they’re nearly all banned and blocked through the “Great Firewall of China.”
So they censor in other ways using a kind of soft power.
One example in the news involves Tom Cruise. A remake of the 1986 action movie “Top Gun” called “Top Gun: Maverick” has Cruise wearing the same leather jacket as in the original, but with two patches replaced. In the original, the jacket showed flags for Taiwan and Japan. These are now gone. China’s Tencent is an investor in the movie. And like many Hollywood films, the filmmakers are counting on a big Chinese distribution. (The Chinese government’s role in this censorship is speculative.)
Link to the rest at Insider Pro
PG notes that, since ebooks are digital files, digital censorship of file downloads is a potential issue.