Google appears to be rather proud of its new-found freedom of expression spine. It just released a snazzy new product mapping out the countries in the world whose governments have requested information be removed from one of the company’s products (Blogger, YouTube, etc.).
Unfortunately, in order for numbers to be useful, you need some sort of baseline, and Google’s map doesn’t give us one. Maybe if you combine it with data on the number of people in each country who use the internet?
For example, Argentina has a population of about 40 million, only 28% of whom are connected to the internet. Google in Argentina has received 42 requests to remove information from one of its products, which breaks down to about 0.38 complaints per 100,000 internet users.
Though the raw numbers make it look worse, Brazil is about the same as Argentina, with 0.40 complaints per 100,000 internet users. But Germany beats everyone, with 3.1 removal requests per 100,000 users.
In the end, I’m not really clear on what Google’s trying to tell us. That Germany has greater internet restrictions than Cuba? Or that Brazil’s government is the only one in the world that gives enough of a damn about Google to file legal challenges against it?
The power of interactive mappy-thingies for promoting human rights causes is indeed great, but this is where the engineers should have maybe consulted with a social scientist.