Google Visualizes Free Flow of Information with New Tool

Today, Google introduced a new tool that tries to visualize what Google calls ‘disruptions in the free flow of information’. Their new Traffic Transparency Report Tool provides information about traffic to its services around the world. The tool gives insight into the availability of Google services per country. For instance, the graph shows that there has been very little traffic to YouTube in Iran since June 2009, which indicates that this Google service is inaccessible.

Google plans to replace their Mainland China service availability chart summarizing the accessibility to Google services in China with this new general tool. By replacing the chart, Google takes focus off China and broadens its perspective to the global accessibility of its services. Replacing the old chart also has an important disadvantage. By replacing qualifications like ‘fully accessible’, ‘partially blocked’ and ‘fully blocked’ by raw data, it gets harder to see whether and to which degree a service has been blocked. Google does add labels to certain drops in traffic, e.g. that YouTube has been inaccessible in China since March 2009, but only in cases of fully blocked services. From the China availability chart we know that Google Docs is ‘partially blocked’, this is however hard to see from the data in Google’s new traffic tool.

Google’s data gives welcome insight into the global availability of its services. However, it also takes away some clarity in regard to China’s blocking practices.

About the Author: stefankulk

Stefan is a PhD candidate at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. He researches the liability of online intermediaries.

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