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Google Has Controversy On Its Mind

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Operating in over a hundred countries means Google has to juggle a lot of laws and cultural differences as they try to present information as openly as possible.

Google Has Controversy On Its Mind
Google Has Controversy On Its Mind

Google’s Rachel Whetstone has not appeared in our pages since early in 2007, as the company battled Belgian firm Copiepresse over the indexing of news publishers managed by that firm. The Director of Global Communications and Public Affairs for EMEA for Google blogged a long post about the challenges of operating around the world.

On the topic of free expression and controversial online content, Whetstone’s post on the official Google blog defends Google’s regular practices with hosting content created by its users.

“In general, Google does not want to be a gatekeeper. We don’t, and can’t, check content before it goes live,” she remarked.

It also appears she doesn’t want to call attention to some of the more sensitive considerations of modern times. While Whetstone openly noted the Germany-specific ban on Nazism, there’s no mention of Chinese censorship, even while making this statement:

And, in extreme cases, we face questions about whether a country’s laws and lack of democratic processes are so antithetical to our principles that we simply can’t comply or can’t operate there in a way that benefits users.

Whetstone summarizes her post by stating Google wants to be as transparent as possible regarding freedom of expression and the choices the company makes as discussion takes place about its policies. Ok, we get it, Whetstone has a tough job, especially when considering the highly sensitive Middle East.

Reviewing and debating policies after opening up in a less-than-free market like China doesn’t do much for anyone. It’s akin to someone dropping themselves in the seat you’re saving for your spouse at the movies. You explain to the offender what they have done wrong, only to have the person say gee, that sounds interesting, let’s talk about that some more.

Balancing free expression with local laws may be a proverbial minefield. But considering Google’s financial success, they seem to be handling the task without much difficulty.

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