Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Combating online hate speech

From homophobia and racism to political and religious extremism, “hate speech” on the Internet is raising concern. YouTube and other Google products such as G+ have strong Community Guidelines and offer effective tools, featured in the below video, to flag inappropriate content. Yet a recent event with the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee in London’s YouTube Space demonstrated that perhaps the best way to fight hate is through positive counterspeech.

Free speech is vital to democracy. Drowning out ideology with reason represents a powerful weapon. It is only on open platforms like YouTube—not in jihadist chat rooms or the extremist echo chambers of the ‘dark internet’—that susceptible or curious minds will find countervailing points of view.

In 2010, columnist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller set out to combat discrimination against young gays and lesbians. They started small. Savage filmed a homemade YouTube video called “It Gets Better.” It soon swelled into a global phenomenon. In Britain, “It Gets Better… Today,” led to a hit single that climbed the UK independent charts - garnering more than 50 million views.

Our London event aimed to achieve something similar with online extremism. We explored how two British YouTube creators, Ben Cook and Jack Howard, partnered with Oxfam on an online campaign to help refugees. Michael Stevens of Vsauce proved that YouTube can educate and inform, as well as entertain. And a community worker who helps people that are vulnerable to radicalisation, launched his YouTube channel, Abdullah X, to fight online recruitment of foreign fighters and terrorists.

The internet can be a tool of radicalisation, so it is vital to seize it as a force of good. Though the removal of the really bad stuff, like violence, continues to be essential, too little focus so far has been placed on the importance of counter-messages. As one participant in London said, “We must embrace new technology and make the right messages more digestible so we can flood the internet with positivity.” Building a community around counterspeech is difficult. It may take time. In the end, though, it wins.

Defending digital freedom with Index On Censorship

It’s not always that a private corporation and a civil rights NGO see eye to eye on key issues. But this is the case for Google and Index on Censorship.

For the fourth year in a row, we worked with Index on its annual awards event, which took place last evening at London's Barbican Centre. This ongoing relationship reflects our common concerns about the ongoing and increasing government crackdown against the free and open Internet. Index has made a strong move to invest in the defense not just of print, radio and tv freedom - but also with us in defence of online freedom.

When we first learned about Digital Freedom Award, we were immediately impressed with its motto - celebrating the fundamental right to "write, blog, tweet, speak out, protest and create art and literature and music." Google aims to provide a platform to promote just such a fundamental right. The Digital Freedom Award recognizes the original use of new technology to foster debate, argument or dissent.

Google Digital Journalism Award winner Shubhranshu Choudhary
Let’s be clear: Total editorial control remains with Index. Index, not us, chooses the nominees. Until now, distinguished juries have selected winners. But this year, we worked with Index on an innovation - asking the public to vote by filling in an online form.

This year’s nominees came from China, India, the U.S., and appropriately enough, cyberspace! There was whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose actions are well-known.

There was the Chinese microblogging Weibo, an uncensored version of China’s biggest social network, SinaWeibo. Free Weibo keeps track of and publishes everything which has been censored and deleted by the government, providing a fascinating insight into the regime’s priorities and fears.

There was TAILS - the Incognoto Amnesiac Live Operating System. Its open-source encryption tool helps protect the free online communication of journalists and sources in any country, regardless of official limits on free expression.

The winner came from India, journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary. He’s the brains behind CGNet Swara (Voice of Chhattisgarh) a mobile-phone (no smartphone required) service that allows citizens to upload and listen to local reports in their own dialect.

Please join us in congratulating Shubhranshu - and all the free-expression champions who shines a light on their ongoing struggle against censorship around the world.

2014 RISE Awards: Supporting computer science education

"We need more kids falling in love with science and math.” Our CEO Larry Page said this at last year's Google Developers I/O event, and it's a feeling shared by all of us. We want to inspire young people around the world, and so five years ago we created the Google RISE (Roots in Science and Engineering) Awards, which provides funding to organisations around the world that engage girls and underrepresented students in extracurricular computer science programs.

This year, the RISE Awards are providing $1.5 million to 42 organizations in 19 countries that provide students with the resources they need to succeed in the field.  Ten winners come from Europe. They range from Generating Genius in the U.K. which provides after-school computer science programs and mentoring to prepare high-achieving students from disadvantaged communities for admission into top universities to Mezon in Russia, which operates a learning center for educational robotics, developing curriculum for senior school teachers. Visit our site for a full list of our RISE Award recipients.
Created in 2007, the Children’s University Foundation has been carrying out educational programs for more than 20,000 children aged 6-13. Click on the photo to learn more about this and other RISE Awardees.

This year we’re also expanding the program with the RISE Partnership Awards. These awards aim to encourage collaboration across organizations in pursuit of a shared goal of increasing global participation in computer science. For example, more than 5,000 girls in sub-Saharan Africa will learn computer science as a result of a partnership between the Harlem based program ELITE and the WAAW Foundation in Nigeria.

We’re proud to help these organisations inspire the next generation of computer scientists.

Vote for Digital Defender of the Year

For the past 14 years the Index on Censorship Awards have honoured some of the most remarkable fighters for free expression from around the world - from assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya to Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat to education activist Malala Yousafzai. Until now, distinguished juries have selected all the winners. But this year, we’re working with Index on an innovation - asking the public to vote for the digital activist award, which honours the person who has done the most to defend online freedom.

Take a look at the nominees and vote here. Voting finishes next Monday, February 3, so please do act fast.

This is the fourth year Google has worked with Index on its annual awards event. Total editorial control remains with Index; they choose the nominees. We are just delighted to support this important organization’s new and important work in defence of online freedom. For a taste of the excitement surrounding the ceremony, watch last year’s highlight video below.

This year’s awards ceremony take place on Thursday March 20, 6.30pm, at the Barbican Centre in London. In addition to the digital defender award, three other awards will be given out, one for journalism, one for advocacy and one for arts. Tickets are available, so please do join us to celebrate free-expression champions and shine a light on their ongoing struggle against censorship around the world.

Life in the fast lane: Street View on the Top Gear test track

Thanks to Street View, you might have already traversed the elegant plains of Botswana, or discovered the serene fjords of Norway. But now for something completely different.

One of our brave Street View drivers has been to a remote airfield in Surrey, England — filming location of the BBC’s automotive TV show, Top Gear. He went to take on the fearless petrolhead that reigns supreme on the iconic show — The Stig. While the Stig raced around in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black, we took a tour with our own vehicle. Take a look at the results in this behind the scenes video.

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Crossing the chequered line. The track plays host to regular Top Gear features like the Power Lap and Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.

The Top Gear test track is the latest in a line of special Street View collects designed to delight motorsport fans. Previously, we’ve put online the Laguna Seca raceway in California and the Monza Formula 1 circuit, host to the Italian Grand Prix, among others. Get behind the “wheel” and enjoy!

Promoting transparency around Europe

When eight technology companies presented a plan this month to reform government surveillance, a key request concerned transparency. At Google, we were the first company to publish a transparency report detailing the requests we receive from governments around the world to bring down content or hand over information on users.

But Google’s report represents only a narrow snapshot. It is limited to a single company. Imagine instead if all the requests for information on Internet users and for takedowns of web content in a country could be published. This would give a much more effective picture of the state of Internet freedom. As the year draws to a close, we’re happy to report that Panoptykon, a Polish NGO, published this month a preliminary Internet transparency report for Poland and Fores, a Stockholm-based think tank, issued a study in Sweden.

In Poland and Sweden, we helped initiate these transparency efforts and supported them financially. NGOs in six other European countries are working on national transparency reports. Our Estonian-supported transparency coalition already published a report last spring. In addition, university researchers in Hong Kong moved ahead over the summer with their own report. In Strasbourg, the Council of Europe recently held an important conference on the subject and hopefully will move ahead to present a series of recommendations on transparency for its 47 members.

Each transparency campaign takes a different approach - we hope this process of experimentation will help all of us learn. The Estonian effort, titled Project 451, focuses on content removals, not government surveillance, because the authors believe this is the most important issue in their country. The name of Project “451″ refers to HTTP Status Code 451, defined as “unavailable for legal reasons” and the report found that many web platforms were taking legal content down due to fears of legal liability.

The new Polish and Swedish reports attempt to shed light on government requests for information on users. Fores contacted 339 Swedish authorities and found that more than a third had requested data about users or takedowns of user-uploaded content. Panoptykon uncovered that Polish telcos received 1.76 million requests for user information in 2012, while Internet companies polled received approximately 7,500. In addition, Panoptykon discovered that many Polish government requests for information on users were based on a flawed or unclear legal basis.

Admittedly, both the Swedish and Polish reports remain incomplete. Not all Internet companies participated. Much relevant data must be missing. Like with our own Google report, we hope to continue filling in the holes in the future. Our aim is to see this campaign gather momentum because the bottom line is transparency is essential to a debate over government surveillance powers.