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Google+ Blocked by the Great Firewall of China

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The Chinese government has blocked Google+ and other Google products while the Communist Party holds its 18th Party Congress in Beijing. In addition to users in China receiving an error message when they attempt to access Google-owned sites, foreign website owners will not be able to track Chinese visitors through Google Analytics. Our Google+ analytics tool, GPlusData, showed a drop-off in the number of posts on the social network beginning on November 8, when the congress began.

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Iran Plans Closed Intranet to Stifle Social Networking and Email

iran woman

Iran announced Thursday that they will be setting up a national Intranet and blocking sites like Google Plus, Yahoo, Google and Hotmail to establish a “clean internet”.  Whether the goal is cleanliness or suppression is debatable, but this does mean that many of these American services will be replaces with government services like Iran Mail and Iran Search Engine.

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NCAC, ABFFE Fight PayPal On Book Censorship

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) is standing up to PayPal, who has recently been cutting off payments to digital booksellers that sell eBooks that include rape, incest and bestiality.  Last month, digital publishing site Smashwords updated its policy, requiring certain restrictions to erotica content published on its site, because of pressure from PayPal.

Comparing PayPal’s policy to the other censorship movements such as the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited Books and the film industry’s Hays code, ABFFE and NCAC wrote in a letter to eBay (PayPal’s parent company): “The commitment to free speech is firmly embedded in our society, legally and culturally. Those who find sexual (or any other kind of) content disturbingor immoral don’t have to buy it, but it is widely accepted that they have no right to impose their views on others, or to expect society at large to adopt their perspective.”

Tumblr Censors Self-Harm Blogs and Educates Users Who Search for “Thinspiration”

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Recently, Reddit announced that despite their adamant stance towards free speech, they would be banning sites that had obscene content relating to children.  Possibly taking a cue from that move, Tumblr has decided to ban some content on their site, specifically that related to self harm.  In a post on their blog, they mention that sometimes “Tumblr gets used for things that are just wrong.”  This underscores the responsibility that comes with a public, free social networking service — at some point you need to monitor content to maintain the nature of the site.

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Google Acquiesces and Censors Content in India

India Clash Social Network

After a prolonged district court case ordered Google to take down images that may be offensive to Muslims, Google has agreed to do just that, and has began to censor its search results to remove offensive images.   Facebook and Yahoo, also named in the case, are sticking to their guns and saying that they can’t police the content of their sites as that content is uploaded by users.

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Libya Cracks Down on Clever .ly Domain Names

Startups with clever .ly domain names such as bit.ly and ad.ly could have their Web addresses pulled out from under them if the government of Libya, which controls the .ly domain space, objects to their content.

Online entrepreneur and consultant Ben Metcalfe wrote Wednesday that his registration of the domain vb.ly, which he co-owned with sex writer Violet Blue as a link shortener for adult-oriented links, was revoked without warning because content on the site did not comply with Libyan Islamic law. The domain was deleted by NIC.ly, the government-owned top level domain registrar around September 23rd.

“Pornography and adult material aren’t allowed under Libyan Law, therefore we removed the domain,” wrote Alaeddin S. ElSharif of NIC.ly according to Metcalfe.

Metcalfe claimed that vb.ly contained no adult content, just links. He expressed his biggest concern over the idea that Libya was exercising editorial control over .ly sites. “I believe the .ly domains should be considered unsafe. Anyone running a business or relying on a website with a one, two or three letter .ly domain should be incredibly cautious,” he warned.

Metcalfe and Blue launched the service in August 2009, and had pre-paid for a second year before it was shut down.

ElSharif wrote that promoting the site as adult oriented, rather than as a generic link shortener such as bit.ly, was enough to violate the country’s decency laws. The full text of ElSharif’s response can be found on Violet Blue’s blog (warning: adult-oriented links).

Metcalfe summed up:

  • .ly domains deemed to be in violation of NIC.ly regulation are being deregistered and removed without warning – causing significant inconvenience and damage.
  • .ly domains are being deregistered and removed due to reasons that do not correspond to the regulations defined in the official NIC.ly Regulations.
  • NIC.ly seems to want to extend their reach beyond the domain itself and regulate the content of websites that use a .ly domain. The concept amounts to censorship and makes .ly domains untenable to be used for user-generated content or url shorteners.
  • Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law is being used to consider the validity of domains, which is unclear and obscure in terms of being able to know what is allowed and what isn’t.
  • NIC.ly have suddenly decided that <4 letter .ly domains should only be available to local Libyans and this appears to create motivation to recover what premium domains they can to go back into this new local-only pot of domains.