February 3, 2012 | By Maira Sutton

This Week in Censorship: Arrested Bloggers in Vietnam, Google's New Censorship Policy, and China Blocks Tibetan-Language Blogs

Paulus Le Son, a blogger detained in Vietnam since August 2011

Arrests of Dissident Bloggers Continue in Vietnam

As we have previously covered, the Vietnamese government continues to crack down on bloggers and writers who have spoken out against the Communist regime. Alternative news site, Vietnam Redemptorist News, has been targeted by the state and several of their active contributors have been arrested. Paulus Le Son, 26, is one of the most active bloggers who was arrested without a warrant.

Vietnam is increasingly applying vague national security laws to silence free speech and political opposition. He is one of 17 bloggers who have been arrested since August 2011. Charged with “subversion” and “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”, there is a campaign to release him and the others who have been detained

EFF stands with the Committee to Project Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and Front Line in calling for the immediate release of all arrested bloggers.

Google Quietly Releases Country-by-Country Take Downs For Blogger

Most of the blogosphere’s attention has been focused on Twitter’s new censorship policies released last week, but Google has quietly unveiled its new policies for its blogging interface, Blogger. The changes reflect a compromise similar to Twitter's, allowing them to target their response to content removal requests by certain states. Over the coming weeks, Google will redirect users to a country-code top-level domain, or “ccTLD”, which corresponds to the user’s current location based upon their IP address. Google also provides users a way to get around these blocks by entering a formatted No Country Redirect or “NCR” URL.

These moves come after pressure from countries like India that are cracking down on social media sites for content deemed “inappropriate”. On Blogger’s FAQ they explain why it has come to this:

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. 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.

As these companies enter new countries, they become subject to local laws. Given that they say they already respond to valid and applicable court orders that could effect global access to certain content, it is in some ways an improvement to limit censorship to the region in which it applies. Google’s policy changes are similar to Twitter’s, which we reacted to last week:

For now, the overall effect is less censorship rather than more censorship, since they used to take things down for all users. But people have voiced concerns that "if you build it, they will come,"--if you build a tool for state-by-state censorship, states will start to use it. We should remain vigilant against this outcome.

The lasting consequences of this new policy cannot be foreseen, in the meantime we will be keeping a close eye on Chilling Effects to track government requests to censor content on Blogger.

China Shuts Down Tibetan Blogs

The Chinese government shut down several independent Tibetan-language blogs on Wednesday. This occurred amid heightened tensions in the decades-long conflict between the minority group and the government. While some of the take-downs leave no explanation, there was one notice by the Chinese state on AmdoTibet, whose blog has been the only page of the site has been taken down. It reads:

Due to some of the blog users not publishing in accordance with the goal of this site, the blog has temporarily been shut down, we hope that blog users will have understanding!

We condemn the Chinese government’s heavy-handed censorship policies, and demand them to stop silencing the Tibetan voice in their country.

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