It's been little over a week since micro-blogging site Twitter announced that it would begin restricting Tweets in certain countries (while making them available to the rest of the world) and this time around search giant Google has gone ahead and said that it will start censoring country specific blogs. Blogger.com, the blogging site owned by Google has also posted information on the same.
According to Google, "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. By utilizing country-code top level domain or ccTLDs, content removals can be managed on a per country basis, which will limit their impact to the smallest number of readers. Content removed due to a specific country's law will only be removed from the relevant ccTLD," read a post on Blogger.com's support page.
This basically means that the URL of a blog a user is reading will be redirected to ccTLD. For example, if someone is in India and viewing [blogname].blogspot.com, they might be redirected to [blogname].blogspot.com.in. A ccTLD, when it appears it will correspond with the country of the reader's current location. The company has also mentioned that it will continue to launch limited updates; hence users will see ccTLDs in additional countries.
The company claims that blog owners will not witness any visible differences to their blog other than the URL redirecting to a ccTLD. Although it points out that it could affect the search engine optimization of the blog (visibility of the blog in search engines).
"After this change, crawlers will find Blogspot content on many different domains. Hosting duplicate content on different domains can affect search results, but we are making every effort to minimize any negative consequences of hosting Blogspot content on multiple domains."
But the good news for those who believe in freedom of speech, like us, is that Google has also provided(unlike Twitter) a loophole for the reader to access uncensored content, if they want to.
Users can request a specific country version of the blogspot content by entering a specially formatted 'NCR' URL. NCR stands for 'No Country Redirect' and will always display buzz.blogger.com in English, whether you're in India, Germany, or anywhere for that matter. For example- http://[blogname].blogspot.com/ncr will always go to the U S English blog.
"This special URL sets a short-lived cookie (session and/or a short life time) that will prevent geo-based redirection from the requested domain. This applies to all web browsers and all Operating Systems," read the post.
The catch is that you as a reader would not know a content is blocked. So if you really want to read anything and everything that's up there without worrying if some content has been blocked, you need to try use the 'NCR' option as a default each time, just to be sure you haven't missed out on something. One thing that we wonder is how strongly can the auto censorship be enforced. And how will Google decide on the censorship. After all there are various ways to saying things and need we mention writing things.
All things said, the move does suggest the pressure of Internet censorship is finally gotten to Google. But if censorship is the new trend among these social media platforms, what's next? Facebook censoring wall posts and profile photos? And who decides how much is too much!