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Google Public Policy BLOG
Google's views on government, policy and politics.
Updated: 11 hours 35 min ago
Posted by Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel
We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means, and helped manufacture legal arguments in connection with an investigation by Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood.
Almost three years ago, millions of Americans helped stop a piece of congressional legislation—supported by the MPAA—called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). If passed, SOPA would have led to censorship across the web. No wonder that 115,000 websites—including Google—participated in a protest, and over the course of a single day, Congress received more than 8 million phone calls and 4 million emails, as well as getting 10 million petition signatures.
Here is what recent press reports have revealed over the past few days about the MPAA’s campaign:
The MPAA conspired to achieve SOPA’s goals through non-legislative meansAccording to The Verge, “at the beginning of this year, the MPAA and six studios … joined together to begin a new campaign” to figure how it could secretly revive SOPA. It “joined together to begin a new campaign” to achieve wholesale site-blocking by “[convincing] state prosecutors to take up the fight against [Google].” The movie studios “budgeted $500,000 a year towards providing legal support”—and the MPAA later sought up to $1.175 million for this campaign.
The MPAA pointed its guns at Google With that money, the MPAA then hired its long-time law firm Jenner & Block to go after Google while also funding an astroturf group—the Digital Citizens Alliance—with the same goal of attacking Google. (Source: The New York Times).
The MPAA did the legal legwork for the Mississippi State Attorney GeneralThe MPAA then pitched Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, an admitted SOPA supporter, and Attorney General Hood sent Google a letter making numerous accusations about the company. The letter was signed by General Hood but was actually drafted by an attorney at Jenner & Block—the MPAA’s law firm. As the New York Times has reported, the letter was only minimally edited by the state Attorney General before he signed it. Here is what the document showed about its true origin:We've redacted the name of the attorney to protect her privacy
Even though Google takes industry-leading measures in dealing with problematic content on our services, Attorney General Hood proceeded to send Google a sweeping 79-page subpoena, covering a variety of topics over which he lacks jurisdiction. The Verge reported that the MPAA and its members discussed such subpoenas and certainly knew about this subpoena’s existence before it was even sent to Google.
Attorney General Hood told the Huffington Post earlier this week that the MPAA "has no major influence on my decision-making,” and that he “has never asked [the] MPAA a legal question” and “isn't sure which lawyers they employ.” And yet today the Huffington Post and the Verge revealed that Attorney General Hood had numerous conversations with both MPAA staff and Jenner & Block attorneys about this matter.
While we of course have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organization founded in part “to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists' right to free expression.” Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?
UPDATE - Friday, December 19: Because Attorney General Hood's 79-page subpoena constitutes an unjustified attack that violates well-established U.S. laws governing Internet platforms and online intermediaries, we are today asking a federal court to set that subpoena aside (our brief is here). We are also asking those with a hand in this campaign to preserve all relevant documents. We regret having to take this matter to court, and we are doing so only after years of efforts to explain both the merits of our position and the extensive steps we've taken on our platforms.
Those who write (and re-write) national constitutions naturally learn and draw from the work of other drafters. Constitute, a website that digitizes and indexes the world’s constitutions which Google Ideas launched in 2013 with the Comparative Constitutions Project, has made this process even easier.
Today marks the launch of Constitute in Arabic, which promises to make the process of constitutional drafting and analysis more accessible across the Arab world. The site now provides Arabic translations of some of the world’s most-cited constitutions, coupled with powerful analytical tools.
We’re also introducing new, powerful features across the English and Arabic versions of the site. A new “compare” functionality lets you view two constitutions side-by-side, inviting an entirely different perspective. Curious how the Japanese Constitution of 1946, drafted under U.S. occupation, compares to that of the U.S.? View them side-by-side and compare them provision by provision (for example, on the topic of search and seizure rights) in a clean, easy-to-read layout.
Constitute also includes new options for saving and sharing content. You can now pin constitutional excerpts, comparisons and entire searches, and export the results to for easy collaborative drafting, reading or analysis. You can also share to social media, or send links to specific locations in any of the documents—for example, explore which African constitutions have provisions on gender equality.
Finally, developers and data enthusiasts—and their machine counterparts—will be able to build upon Constitute’s underlying data through an open data portal which includes access to Constitute’s API.
On average, five new constitutions are written every year and even more are amended. Creating a document to serve as the bedrock of one’s society is a huge undertaking, which is why Google Ideas collaborated with the Comparative Constitutions Project to seed Constitute in 2013. We hope today’s additions to Constitute will help equip constitutional drafters and citizens of every country with the remarkable power of knowledge.
Posted by Brett Perlmutter, Special Projects Lead, Google Ideas
Earlier this year, we began working with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to help people find helpful information about substance abuse online. This is a guest post from their President and CEO, Steve Pasierb, describing our efforts together and the organization’s ongoing work to keep teens safe. -Ed
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is dedicated to reducing teen substance abuse and helping families impacted by addiction. We are the only family-focused nonprofit that provides resources and direct support to help families prevent and cope with teen drug and alcohol abuse.
The modern path to substance abuse looks very different than it did when today's parents were teens themselves. As we all know, people are spending more of their time online, across a variety of connected devices. As a result, it’s increasingly important for our information to be accessible anytime, on the web and in mobile apps.
Thanks to a recent donation from Google, we’ve created innovative new content and tools that will help countless families find answers in the midst of a crisis, or before one ever happens.
Since beginning our work together in April, Google has funded search advertising campaigns, helped develop a mobile app with substance abuse-related information, improved our website, and plans to revamp our YouTube channel. All of this is complemented by their ongoing efforts to fight rogue online pharmacies — Google has removed more than 7 million ads for these outfits this year alone. This work makes it harder for people to buy controlled substances online without a valid prescription, thereby reducing illicit access to these medications and reducing abuse.
Search advertising campaigns funded by Google
Users will be able to find information about substance-abuse including: images, common slang terms, short- and long-term effects of each drug, and how to get help in our upcoming mobile app
Our national action campaign, the Medicine Abuse Project, is rallying parents, educators, health care providers, communities, and law enforcement to collectively help prevent half a million teens from abusing prescription drugs and over-the-counter cough medicine. Thanks to invaluable partners like Google, we are able to expand our reach, sharpen our tools and help parents navigate the teen years with help at their fingertips.
Posted by Steve Pasierb, President and CEO, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Investigathon: Helping investigative journalists access information through the Investigative Dashboard
As the old saying goes, “News is something somebody wants to suppress. All the rest is advertising.” We agree: Investigative journalism is a crucial pillar of free societies. That’s why we’re holding an “Investigathon” in New York City to share and practice new ways to make investigations more powerful.
It all starts with data. With the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, we’ve built the Investigative Dashboard to help investigators trace shell company ownership around the world. At the Investigathon, 100 investigators of all stripes will spend the afternoon learning to use the Dashboard and other datasets to trace Eastern European money laundering activities. So many public records are already available to search, sometimes it’s just a question of knowing how to look.
Data only goes so far without tools. That’s why we’ve also been working with Overview Project to make it easier to sift through huge volumes of business records. The world doesn’t need more isolated platforms, so Overview Project will soon have standardized APIs to integrate directly into the Investigative Dashboard, Visual Investigative Scenarios, and beyond.
Finally, knowledge spreads through personal relationships based on trust, so we’re hoping to play a small role in strengthening the investigative journalism community on the East Coast. When we held our inaugural Investigathon in London, there was so much enthusiasm that Hacks/Hackers, Bellingcat, and OCCRP decided to run six-month series of follow-up workshops and convenings to support the work we started there.
The challenges of investigative journalists are immense, and the forces arranged against them are formidable. But if people are to have free and open access to the truths about their societies, investigators must stay one step ahead of those who would want to suppress that information. We aim to help, one step at a time.
Posted by Justin Kosslyn, Product Manager, Google Ideas
Cross-posted from the Google Europe Blog
Last summer’s Snowden revelations not only highlighted the urgent need for surveillance reform but also severely damaged relations between the US and Europe.
Google and many other technology companies have urged the US to take the lead and introduce reforms that ensure government surveillance activity is clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. Sadly, we’ve seen little serious reform to date.
However, the US Government can signal a new attitude when representatives of the European Commission visit Washington DC tomorrow. Right now, European citizens do not have the right to challenge misuse of their data by the US government in US courts -- even though American citizens already enjoy this right in most European countries. It’s why Google supports legislation to extend the US Privacy Act to EU citizens. The Obama Administration has already pledged its support for this change and we look forward to to working with Congress to try and make this happen.
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. The emergence of ISIS and other new threats have reminded us all of the dangers we face. But the balance in the US and many other countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As President Obama recently instructed his Intelligence agencies: “All persons should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality or wherever they might reside, and that all persons have legitimate privacy interests in the handling of their personal information.”
Posted by David Drummond Chief Legal Officer, Google
Today we’re publishing a refreshed How Google Fights Piracy report, which explains how we combat piracy across our services. This new version updates many of the numbers from the 2013 version and lists a few other developments in the past year:
Every day our partnership with the entertainment industry deepens. Just this month we launched a collaboration with Paramount Pictures to promote their upcoming film “Interstellar” with an interactive website. And Content ID (our system for rightsholders to easily identify and manage their content on YouTube) recently hit the milestone of enabling more than $1 billion in revenue to the content industry.
In addition to strengthening these relationships, we continue to invest in combating piracy across all our services.
Posted by Katherine Oyama, Sr. Copyright Policy Counsel
Cross-posted from the Google Politics & Elections Blog
Posted by Brandon Feldman, YouTube News & Politics
From live streams of the State of the Union and legislative hearings, to explainer videos on important issues and Hangouts with constituents, YouTube has become an important platform where citizens engage with their governments and elected officials.
In order to help government officials get a better idea of what YouTube can do, we are launching youtube.com/government101, a one-stop shop where government officials can learn how to get the most out of YouTube as a communication tool.
The site offers a broad range of YouTube advice, from the basics of creating a channel to in-depth guidance on features like live streaming, annotations, playlists and more. We’ve also featured case studies from government offices around the world that are using YouTube in innovative ways.
If you're a government official, whether you are looking for an answer to a quick question or need a full training on YouTube best practices, we hope this resource will help you engage in a rich dialogue with your constituents and increase transparency within your community.
Posted by Christine Y. Chen, Senior Manager, Public Policy
Earlier today, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its “Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate.” For two years, Google has participated in an industry working group convened by the ADL where, together with several other companies, other NGOs, and academics, we have exchanged insights and ideas on how to balance the need for responsible discourse with the principles of free expression. The best practices set forth by the ADL grew out of these conversations and we are excited to see them being shared with the wider Internet community.
In line with the practices set forth by the ADL, we work hard at Google to combat the spread of hateful content in order to maintain safe and vibrant communities on platforms like YouTube, Blogger, and Google+. We don’t allow content that promotes or condones violence or that has the primary purpose of inciting hatred on the basis of race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, nationality, or veteran status.
To make sure these communities stay vibrant, we also depend on our users to let us know when they see content that violates our policies. The Google Safety Center gives an overview of the tools that people can use to report content that violates our user policies on different products.
Here are more details about some of our content policies and how to flag violations:
These reporting systems operate much like an online neighborhood watch. We ask your help in maintaining a community that provides a positive and respectful experience for everyone. The Internet has enabled anyone to become an artist, a writer, or a creator by simply using a keyboard and few clicks to reach out to the rest of the world. The release of the ADL’s best practices are a good reminder that we must all work together to keep the Internet a safe and open place to exchange information and ideas, where people can connect and engage with each other in unprecedented ways.
This is a guest post from our Google for Entrepreneur's partner Marc Nager from UP Global - ed.
While supporting thousands of community leaders over the past six years, UP Global has consistently found itself at the center of larger conversations about what makes entrepreneurial ecosystems thrive.
Fundamentally, our goal is to provide a global framework for these conversations, that can be adapted to support the unique efforts of the community leaders and entrepreneurs - wherever they may be.
We are pleased to announce the release of the Fostering a Startup and Innovation Ecosystem white paper. This research project extends our commitment to entrepreneurs around the world, and substantiates our optimism for the economic progress that occurs every day. We hope the conversations around these topics continue as we work together towards providing global access to entrepreneurship.
Foreword by Mary Grove, Director of Google for EntrepreneursEntrepreneurship and innovation are thriving in communities all across the globe, and we see the transformative power entrepreneurs have to build products and companies that improve their communities, cities, and ultimately the world. Over the last several years, we’ve seen a surge in entrepreneurial activity in cities as far ranging as Damascus to Detroit, Sao Paulo to Nairobi, led by local leaders and influencers.
UP Global is a best in class organization empowering communities with the support and resources they need to foster local innovation and entrepreneurs. Their belief is that everyone in the world should have the opportunity to go from idea to startup, and the organization has over 7,000 volunteers across 125 countries who are often involved or eager to join in larger conversations with corporations, universities, and policymakers about building and fostering a favorable climate for entrepreneurs in their local community.
There is plenty of research out there that provides advice for entrepreneurs and highlights a few common ingredients that help to foster successful ecosystems. This white paper underscores the five critical ingredients that support flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystems: talent, density, culture, capital, and regulatory environment. My hope is that we continue the conversation about how to foster these ingredients in our daily work. As a board member of UP Global and a close partner of theirs through Google for Entrepreneurs, I am more excited than ever about the organization’s continued support for entrepreneurial communities and the powerful opportunity these communities have to impact the world.
Today, we’re updating our Transparency Report for the tenth time. This update details the number of government demands we received for user information in criminal investigations during the first half of 2014. The update also covers demands for user information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and through National Security Letters (NSLs).
Worldwide, the numbers continue to rise: excluding FISA and NSL demands, we’ve seen a 15% increase since the second half of last year, and a 150% jump since we first began publishing this data in 2009. In the U.S., those increases are 19% and 250%, respectively.
This increase in government demands comes against a backdrop of ongoing revelations about government surveillance programs. Despite these revelations, we have seen some countries expand their surveillance authorities in an attempt to reach service providers outside their borders. Others are considering similar measures. The efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice and other countries to improve diplomatic cooperation will help reduce the perceived need for these laws, but much more remains to be done.
Governments have a legitimate and important role in fighting crime and investigating national security threats. To maintain public confidence in both government and technology, we need legislative reform that ensures surveillance powers are transparent, reasonably scoped by law, and subject to independent oversight.
The USA FREEDOM Act, introduced by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Lee (R-UT), Franken (D-MN) and Heller (R-NV) would prevent the bulk collection of Internet metadata under various legal authorities, allow us to be more transparent about the volume, scope and type of national security demands that we receive, and would create stronger oversight and accountability mechanisms. Congress should move now to enact this legislation into law.
Congress should also update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to make it clear that the government must obtain a search warrant before it can compel a service provider to disclose the content of a user’s communication. Legislation introduced in the House by Representatives Yoder (R-KS), Graves (R-GA) and Polis (D-CO) and in the Senate by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT) would create a warrant-for-content standard that protects the Fourth Amendment rights of Internet users.
This common-sense reform is now supported by a broad range of consumer groups, trade associations, and companies that comprise the Digital Due Process coalition. Additionally, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition urging the White House to back this bill, which enjoys bipartisan support from 266 House Members (well over a majority of the House) and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April 2013.
There is a growing consensus in support of these reforms. In the remaining days of this session, Congress has a chance to pass historic legislation that will help restore trust that has been lost. We urge them to seize upon this opportunity.
Posted by Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security
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