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Google Seeks Allies Against Censorship

A new online transparency report shows which Google services are being blocked in different countries. Whether the U.S. will use this information to challenge censorship as a trade barrier remains to be seen.

As its chief legal officer called for opposition to information trade barriers, Google on Tuesday introduced an online Transparency Report that shows graphs of Google service availability in different countries.

The Transparency Report provides a graph not unlike those used on Google Finance. It displays the flow of data traffic across specific Google services, like Gmail or Google Docs, in a specific countries.

"By showing outages, this tool visualizes disruptions in the free flow of information, whether it's a government blocking information or a cable being cut," Google explains on its Web site.

As an example, Google points to its graph of YouTube's service in Iran, which shows a disruption that began in June 2009 and continues to this day.

For the past few months, Google has offered a similar, less graphically-oriented report that showed the availability of its services in mainland China, via a series of check boxes. That service has been replaced with the new Transparency Report.

Google SVP and chief legal officer David Drummond said in a blog post that the company has also updated its interactive Government Requests map with new data from the first half of 2010.

The Government Requests map, introduced in April, provides data on government demands for information about Google users and for information removal. The new data set includes more granular information, specifically the number of individual items facing removal demands, per country.

The debut of the new tool coincides with a renewed push by Google to rally support for treating censorship as a trade barrier. Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo urged the U.S. government to treat censorship as unlawful protectionism back in 2006.

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