Google Slams Kazakhstan over Internet Freedom
Internet giant Google has lashed out at Kazakhstan, accusing it of “creating borders on the web” in ways that threaten to hamper Internet freedom and “create a fractured Internet.”Astana is among governments “attempting to create borders on the web without full consideration of the consequences their actions may have on their own citizens and the economy,” Google Senior Vice President Bill Coughran said in a blog posting.The crux of Google’s complaint is that, under new rules announced last month, Kazakhstan requires all .kz domain names to operate using servers that are physically located inside the country – and that includes www.google.kz. This would require Google to alter its current policy of handling requests “the fastest way possible, regardless of national boundaries,” and instead routing searches to servers within Kazakhstan by default.To get around a policy that Google says raises questions “not only about network efficiency but also about user privacy and free expression,” the company has decided to redirect users from www.google.kz to www.google.com in the Kazakh language. It is warning, however, that search quality will deteriorate, as results won’t be country-customized.Kazakhstan is not known as a champion of Internet freedom: in 2009 it introduced a law that critics assailed as an attack on free speech. That legislation turned all websites into media outlets from a legal point of view, subjecting them to Kazakhstan’s stringent media laws, and made it legal for authorities to block websites. From January to March this year the Adil Soz (Free Speech) media freedom watchdog registered 16 cases of blocking, including several sites linked to the Respublika newspaper such as respublika-kaz.info and respublika-kz.info, K+TV and the Twitter account of the Young Professionals Society activist group – all of which are still inaccessible within Kazakhstan.And the biggest irony of the row between Google and Kazakhstan? Google’s blog hosting site blogspot.com, where the blog attacking Astana’s Internet policy was posted, also appears to be blocked.