Democratic country, authoritarian country — doesn't matter: They're all trying their darnedest to get various pieces of content removed from the Internet. And the U.S. government in particular has ramped up efforts by more than 100 percent in the last six months.
According to GigaOM's write-up
on the latest post, most of these take-down requests appear to be justified because they either violate law or do not comply with Google's own policies. However, the latest Google blog post also notes some "alarming" take-down requests targeting political rhetoric.
Say what you will about free speech and the Internet. In the end, I'm still going to say this revelation isn't surprising.
First off, it's an election year. A seriously major election year. It would be interesting to see how content take-down requests from the U.S. government fluctuated during presidential campaign seasons.
Plus, organizations, from political entities to governments to corporations, have grown bigger cajones where the Internet is concerned. They're savvier about online content's affects on their various goals and agendas, and they're no longer afraid to "go there" when it comes to getting rid of it. There's no legal harm in asking. After all—- the worst Google will say is "no."
But I think a bigger theme here is that governments are beginning to better understand how social media levels the playing field of power.
Many feel President Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election because of his campaign's adept use of social media. Compelling content can get an audience of millions in a matter of minutes. And...well, that likely scares them as much as it empowers them. We already know the Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor political rhetoric on social media channels
. And so does the FBI
So are these take-down requests a sign of desperation? Do they simply reveal the government's desire to more actively "lurk" and stand up to law and policy violators? Or do they try to cross the line when it comes to free speech and the Internet? What do you think?
Oh, and since I don't like to be rude: If you happen to be reading, hi there, U.S. government! I hope your monitors find this blog post at least somewhat interesting.