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Google-hosted blogs to be censored on country-by-country basis

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Google will remove content posted on its blogging platform on a country-by-country basis after altering the way the service organises blog posts.

The internet giant said the move was designed to help it take down material deemed to be unlawful in one country but to enable readers in other countries to see it. Google said it would make content on 'Blogger' appear on sites that use the relevant country-code top level domains (ccTLDs), such as .uk. It would allocate content to a domain based on readers' IP addresses.

"Migrating to localized domains will allow us to continue promoting free expression and responsible publishing while providing greater flexibility in complying with valid removal requests pursuant to local law," Google said in a question-and-answer statement.

"By utilizing ccTLDs, content removals can be managed on a per country basis, which will limit their impact to the smallest number of readers. Content removed due to a specific country’s law will only be removed from the relevant ccTLD," it said.

"If you visit a blog that does not correspond to your current location as determined by your IP address, the blogspot servers will redirect you to the domain associated with your country, if it’s a supported ccTLD," Google said.

The changes are being piloted in Australia, New Zealand and India, but Google plans to eventually implement the policy globally, according to a report by the BBC.

There is a way around the censor, however. Readers in countries where material has been removed might still be able to view that content by asking their browser to display content on a non-country-specific basis, according to the detail of Google's posting. Google did not respond to Out-Law.com's request to clear up the issue.

"Blog readers may request a specific country version of the blogspot content by entering a specially formatted 'NCR' URL," the Google Q&A said.

"NCR stands for 'No Country Redirect' and will always display buzz.blogger.com in English, whether you’re in India, Brazil, Honduras, Germany, or anywhere. For example: http://[blogname].blogspot.com/ncr – always goes to the US English blog. This special URL sets a short-lived cookie (session and/or a short life time) that will prevent geo-based redirection from the requested domain. This applies to all web browsers and all operating systems," it said.

Google's policy about withholding information in certain countries is similar to the one also announced recently by Twitter. The micro-blogging service said that it has developed a system enabling it to "reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world".

Copyright © 2012, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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