An update on the reported blocking on Google Earth’s servers in Morocco. Two further news items have surfaced that appear to confirm multiple user reports of Google Earth’s servers being inaccessible from as long ago as August 14.
That, at least, is what Maroc IT reports, in an article pretty much parrotted by France’s PC Inpact. The only problem is that both articles manage to get pretty much every other fact wrong. No, India, Israel and South Korea have not blocked access to Google Earth, only Bahrain. No, the US government has not “insisted” that Google Earth censor the White House and, where-do-they-get-this-from, large parts of Manhattan.
Best to head for the hard-core local bloggers then. Temps Libres has a blow-by-blow account of attempts to connect, and manages to localize the problem. As of yesterday, at least one provider — Maroc Télécom — has unblocked Google Earth’s servers. Temps Libres puts it succinctly:
La question qui se pose maintenant est, était ce vraiment de la censure ou bien un simple probléme technique ?, peut être qu’on ne saura jamais!
(“The question now is, was it really censorship or a simple technical problem? Perhaps we’ll never know!”)
What I really love about the censorship debates around Google Earth is that — unlike other content deemed subversive online — Google Earth can only ever be faulted for portraying reality accurately. There are no incitements to violence, nor tendentious arguments, no blasphemies, no racist or bigoted polemics, no slander, no hate speech… Just images. Governments wanting to repress access to the information in Google Earth’s databases cannot credibly justify doing so with the usual pretext of protecting the populace from moral turpitude — which didn’t stop Bahrain from trying, BTW.
Instead, arguments in favor of governmental hobbling of Google Earth have to raise the specter of public security — except that many other commonplace tools are far more dangerous, starting with cars, cell phones, GPS units, paper maps, digital cameras, laptops, the Internet itself, wire transfers… Worst of all, government bans on Google Earth merely blind the locals — everyone else is still all-seeing.