Google now redirects visitors to Blogger blogs – traditionally hosted blogspot.com to blogspot.in domains, reports Techdows. This means that those visiting blogs from India will be redirected to .in equivalent domains. Note that this isn’t just applicable to blogs by Indian users, but any blog hosted on blogspot. For example, if you visit Greg Mankiw’s blog, instead of being taken to http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/, you’ll be redirected to http://gregmankiw.blogspot.in/. The redirection is on the basis of the users IP address, and there are no other visible changes. There are two key things to consider here:
1. Freedom of speech: Clearly, this is being done to enable censorship of content on blogspot.com. Google’s FAQs state the following –
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.
This goes back to changes that Twitter made recently, giving itself the ability to censor content in specific countries, in compliance with local laws. Google appears doing the same with Blogspot. Note that this doesn’t mean that Google will definitely censor everything that it is asked to by the country – it can well refuse to do so – but it is giving itself the ability to. However, this does send a message to the Indian government and the I’m-offended-easily-brigade, that Google is in a position to comply to requests for blocks, by blocking access to blogspot.in domains instead of blogpost.com domains; this will most likely lead to more requests for censorship.
If the timing of Twitters announcement was bad, Google’s is catastrophic. Tomorrows hearing in the Delhi High Court will be interesting, since this also sends a signal of compliance that it is now sending to the Indian courts, where is it arguing against censorship. Outside of arguing jurisdiction in the Delhi High Court – wherein the company claimed that Google India is just a sales office and a subsidiary of Google Inc, and has no say in the operations of the parent company, and hence cannot be held responsible for action or inaction from Google Inc – this is probably the worst move that Google India could have made at this point in time. What were they thinking?
2. Search Engine Optimisation: Google says that there can be an impact on search results:
After this change, crawlers will find Blogspot content on many different domains. Hosting duplicate content on different domains can affect search results, but we are making every effort to minimize any negative consequences of hosting Blogspot content on multiple domains.
“The majority of content hosted on different domains will be unaffected by content removals, and therefore identical. For all such content, we will specify the blogspot.com version as the canonical version using rel=canonical. This will let crawlers know that although the URLs are different, the content is the same. When a post or blog in a country is affected by a content removal, the canonical URL will be set to that country’s ccTLD instead of the .com version. This will ensure that we aren’t marking different content with the same canonical tag.
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.”