unsettling changes to blogger

censorship for dummiesNormally I wouldn't get into the areas of censorship, politics or corporations, but this bothered me, and I'm not sure how many people are actually aware of it yet. It doesn't seem to have been reported anywhere that I've seen... and it seems to me like A Very Bad Thing.

This all came about when I was checking one of our blogs at work. We couldn't access the front end of one and eventually I worked out that it was because Blogger has started placing redirections on blogs so that you see the local "country-code top level domain" or "ccTLD".

Not the ccTLD for the place that the person running the blog is from, but the place that you are.

The following text was taken from Google:
For example, if you're in Australia and viewing [blogname].blogspot.com, you might be redirected [blogname].blogspot.com.au. A ccTLD, when it appears, corresponds with the country of the reader’s current location.
Of course, that caused the filtering system at work to throw a fit, because while it was okay with the blogspot.com addresses, the fact that it was being redirected automatically made the system think all blogspot.com blogs were suddenly "malicious" and blocked them.

And have you ever tried to work out what's happening with Blogger blogs without being able to access Blogger blogs... it's tough.

Eventually I found at Google support page that had been published the day before that detailed the issue:

http://support.google.com/blogger/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2402711

But the explanation was more worrying than the fact that it was happening in the first place.

As above, this was taken from the Google page (bolding is mine):
Migrating to localized domains will allow us to continue promoting free expression and responsible publishing while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests pursuant to local law.

When a post or blog in a country is affected by a content removal, the canonical URL will be set to that country’s ccTLD instead of the .com version.
Does it sound to anybody else as though the claim that it's for "free expression and responsible publishing" is mutually exclusive with "compying with valid removal requests" and forcing URLs to default to the ccTLD address so that content won't be seen in that area.

To me that sounds like a whole bunch of censorship. Like China blocking any reference to the massacre in Tiananmen Square or... well, pretty much everything else China does on the internet. Or suddenly blocking access to posts from Middle Eastern bloggers within the Middle East.

And normally, if they were going to change something this big about Blogger, it would show up in the "Blogger Buzz" content that appears at the bottom of every single blog account. However, the last post on there is from four weeks ago concerning connecting to Google+. And there are no less than five different posts about Blogger's "fresh new look/Dynamic views", but nothing about this.

Whether this has anything to do with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and/or Protect IP Act (PIPA) legislation... some sort of "pre-emptive strike" as it were, I don’t know.

It does seem like a worrying development though.

Although there is a way around it, at least temporarily (but whether that will always work or not I don't know).
Blog readers may request a specific country version of the blogspot content by entering a specially formatted “NCR” URL.

For example: http://[blogname].blogspot.com/ncr
Having said all that, the direct didn't seem to be in place this morning at work and it hadn't affected my blog (at least not as of writing).

Current Mood:

1 comment:

Victor said...

I don't understand the specific detail but when you first alerted us to this development I immediately thought of China and censorship.

Google has previously backed down in the face of Chinese pressure and this seems like more of the same.

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