Internet Freedom Is Relative
TAC readers have no doubt heard Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama defending the “freedom” of the internet as they demand that countries like Russia and China not interfere with the rights and privacy of online users. Well, it turns out that the country that most interferes with internet content, perhaps predictably, is the United States.
Google prepares a semiannual transparency report on government demands to remove content from its site. The latest report covered the last half of 2011. The US leads the pack with police, courts, and government agencies submitting 187 requests to remove content. Brazil had slightly more requests at 192, but the US was far ahead in terms of items to be censored with 6,200 separate items in the 187 requests compared to only 554 for Brazil.
Some of the requests were political in nature, seeking to erase complaints about the respective governments. Canada asked Google to remove a video of a man peeing on a Canadian passport before flushing it down a toilet.
Why am I not surprised? The US is, after all, the country that conceived of a Pentagon program called Total Information Awareness, which sought to search every public and private record to compile in a neat data base all the information on everyone and everything in the United States and, it is to be presumed, worldwide. The concern for freedom of the internet is a bit of a charade, with Washington meddling more than any other country and even working with close friend Israel to develop highly sophisticated computer worms. No other country has embraced a massive cyberwarfare effort, possibly clocking in at $100 billion by the time all the chickens and megabytes are counted.