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3 February 2012

Google quietly enables country specific blocking for Blogger

Rachel Hawkes, account director, Elemental By Rachel Hawkes

Last week (27th January) Twitter caused a bit of an international stir when it announced it could now block tweets on a per country basis.

The move outraged a large group of its users, and was criticized by many including Reporters Without Borders.  Twitter announced on its blog that it had made the move due to the growing popularity of the micro-blog internationally, saying they are entering new countries “that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.”  Twitter gave the example of historical and cultural reasons that exist in France or Germany which ban pro-Nazi content.

Yesterday, news that Google had in fact introduced the same functionality three weeks earlier (on January 9th) caught on thanks to TechDows.  Google are now able to block individual blogs hosted on its free blogging platform Blogger from being read in specific countries.  Prior to now, if a blog was blocked due to its content it would be blocked for the entire world.

This will be managed by automatically re-directing a user to a country specific domain based on the location of their IP address.  Google give the following example on its Blogger support page:

“Over the coming weeks you might notice that the URL of a blog you're reading has been redirected to a country-code top level domain, or "ccTLD." 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.”

In order for Blogger readers to visit the non-country specific blog they must add /ncr to the end of the domain.  For example http://google.blogspot.com/ncr, which stands for “No Country Redirect.”

Ironically, the day before Twitter announced its blocks, Reporters Without Borders (who widely criticized the move by Twitter) released its annual World Press Freedom Index.  The Index shows Australia, the UK and the United States have less freedom of press in the last year than they had in the year before.  

The US dropped 14,00 putting them down 27 places to 47th, whilst Australia (who’s media is largely monopolised by News Corporation) dropped 4,00 from 18th to 30th position.  The UK was down 2,00 which lands them in 28th position on the index (from 19th last year), which could largely be attributed to News Corporation’s phone hacking scandal and the London Riots and trying to control the widespread incitement across Blackberry Messenger.

The World Press Freedom Index 2011-2012

World Press Freedom Index

Categories: Technology, Social media, News

Tags: Google, Twitter, censorship, internet, freedom of speech, blogger, reporters without borders, press, media, bloggers, privacy

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