There is so much that is great about Google that it is easy to overlook the problems that they have and the problems that they might cause. A very good exploration of that, with regards to free speech and censorship, can be found in this NYTimes.com article: Google’s Gatekeepers.
The article explores how Google –the corporation and the people that work there — deal with the demands around the world to censor or block material provided by Google and YouTube. As for article shows, it is a very demanding job.
I think the article is fair in showing all the sides of the issue. If anything, it gives Google and it’s employees the benefit of the doubt. And that’s the part I have a problem with.
Things I would have liked to seen is an exploration of whether or not there should be an American law for free speech similar to the antiboycott laws in place since the 1970s. If it can be illegal for U.S. companies and citizen to particate in a boycott, a similar law could be put in place to uphold free speech.
Another thing that should be explored is whether or not the approach Google current has in untenable. I believe it is untenable for three reasons. First, I believe that their current piecemeal approach is eventually going to collapse or be unmaintainable as exceptions and contradictions are exposed. Second, I believe that Google as a corporation should not have that much control over what I can see and do.Third, Google as a corporation has a conflict of interest between supporting free speech and growing business is countries that want to restrict it.
Now Google is not the State. I still have freedom of association and the press. If I want to post videos or blog things or search for things, I don’t need to use Google. In fact, I don’t use Google for a number of those things. However, most people do. And that really is the root of the problem.
P.S. There is a semi-hagiographic quality to the article. I am not sure why. I think Google can stand for less of that, not more.