Bahrain: Censorship redux

TradeArabia follows up on the decree by Bahrain’s Minitrue Information Ministry to block access to Google Earth’s data servers in the country.

It would appear that the order came from the Information Minister himself, Dr Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar, and that no explanation was given for the decision. All this makes criticism of the move as easy as shooting fish in a barrel; Bahrain Internet Society chairman Ahmed Al Hujairi obliges:

They (the government) had previously said that they wanted to block sites that were against Bahrain’s values, such as porn sites, but why did they block Google Earth?

(Indeed, Mahmood’s Den reported last week that Bahrain began blocking what authorities called “material against the local culture, religion, politics or societal norms”.)

(The New York Times mentions the blocking of Google Earth in Bahrain in passing in this article on Arab reformers.)

Yesterday, Mahmood posted again on censorship in Bahrain, but I want to correct him on a perception he shares with many users that Google censors its imagery, ostensibly at the request of various governments.

Google doesn’t censor. Google licenses imagery from satellite and aerial data providers such as DigitalGlobe, Aerodata and The Geoinformation Group, or gets it for free from public companies like Grafcan. It is the data providers, however, that are bound by the censorship laws of the country they launch from (in the case of satellite imagery providers) or operate in (in the case of aerial imagery providers). Google is free to shop around for the best, least censored data it can find, and with each data update, there are on the whole fewer and fewer censored areas.

2 thoughts on “Bahrain: Censorship redux”

  1. Thanks for the explanation Stefan, and for your follow-up. I’ll certainly provide this information if asked, but somehow I think that the government now is in “cover your ass” mode and it is more important to them to run out of the building while there is still a chance not to be covered by the good stuff they unleashed while the fan (us bloggers!) was still on full!


  2. I wonder if, since Google is floating in a sea of money, that they might buy and launch their own imaging satellite. Having their own satellite would enable them to provide high res coverage of whatever they want and not have to worry too much about having to deal with the whole censorship issue.

    Anyone else think that might be something they would consider doing?

Comments are closed.