Doing Fidel’s work

The internet has been indispensable in showing the world the recent Burmese uprising.

In Cuba, however, with severe restrictions on freedom of speech, it is alleged that Google is engaged in some of its own censorship:

The largest and most-used search engine on the Internet is marking its tenth anniversary. Over that that time it has censored a series of services, making them inaccessible in Cuba – and with no clear explanation why.

…«We’re sorry, but this service is not available for your country…» is the brief message that appears in English on the computer screen when anyone on the island tries to access one of the mega-searcher’s well-known utilities, such as Google Earth, Google Desktop Search, Google Code or Google Toolbar.

The website —famous the world over for providing a simple and quick way to find information on close to 8.2 billion web pages— is consulted more than 200 million times a day. In addition, it offers its users other facilities, like searching for free or open source code, finding maps and aerial photos, locating on-line ads or finding information lost on one’s own computer. However, these options are not available in Cuba.

During my recent visit to the island, I was able to access the Google search engine, but didn’t even bother trying other services on the painfully slow dial-up connections.

Google’s behaviour in China hardly inspires optimism.

UPDATE: Speaking of Google, The Nation reports:

Should we be worried about Google? Ten years after the search engine was launched by two Stanford University graduate students, Google has become an empowering force and a adopted behavior that has transformed the way we access news and information, shop for goods and services and–increasingly–how we engage in politics. Who would have imagined four years ago, that Google and its subsidiary YouTube would co-sponsor debates in which ordinary citizens could directly engage with presidential candidates?

Last week, Google’s stock hit an all-time high, on the strength of reports that the company will earn more this year than the $10.6 billion it earned in 2006. But while Google has almost overnight become a trusted source of information for the technologically attuned, few have thought to question the extent to which its success poses threats to both our privacy and our aspirations for the positive potential of the Internet.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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