Powerful new tools in Arabic and English for constitution drafters and citizens

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.
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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

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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

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Fighting Online Hate Speech

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:

  • YouTube: If you see videos that run afoul of our Community Guidelines, you can report it by clicking on the flag icon below the video player. Then click on the reason — such as “hateful or abusive content” — that best fits the violation for the video, and add any additional information that will help our reviewers make a decision. We have teams around the world reviewing content flagged by users 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and they will remove any videos that violate our guidelines.

  • Blogger: Our content policies describe what kinds of content are and are not allowed in blog posts. If you’re on a blog that seems problematic, click the “More” drop-down at the top of the page, then click on “Report abuse” and follow the prompts to alert us about any policy violations. If the blog owner has hidden that link, you can still report it by going to this Help Center page.  Select the type of content policy violation you’re reporting—such as “hate speech” or “harassment”—and click through to enter the URL of the blog in question.

  • Google+: Our user content policy outlines how we want to ensure a positive experience for our users. If you see inappropriate content, this Help Center page explains what to do. In a Google+ post, click the arrow in the upper right of the post, then click on “Report this post” to get to a pop-up where you can select the reason—like “hateful, harrassing or bullying”—for your report. To report a Google+ comment for a policy violation, click on the gray flag next to the comment.

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.

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Chrome now available for download in Cuba

By Pedro Less Andrade, Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy, Latin America

U.S. export controls and sanctions can sometimes limit the products available in certain countries. But these trade restrictions are always evolving, and over time, we’ve been working to figure out how to make more tools available in sanctioned countries. In the past couple years we’ve made Chrome downloadable in Syria and Iran. We’re happy to say that Internet users in Cuba can now use Chrome too, and browse the web faster and more safely than they could before.

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Showcasing tolerance From Berlin to Budapest

At a time when racism is on the rise in Europe, reportedly reaching its worst level since the 1980s, it is more more important than ever to stand up against scapegoating of migrants and minorities. Two initiatives highlight our commitment to tolerance.

In Germany, we kicked off a new edition this month of the YouTube 361 Grad Respekt combating social exclusion and (cyber-)bullying. This YouTube youth competition runs five video camps across the country, helping students script and shoot videos. You can also participate from home using a webcam or make a video with your smartphone or tablet. Tell us all what makes you strong, talk about your experiences, give others courage, and inspire and motivate them to submit their own statement about showing more respect. Share the video and upload here.

Submissions from the five video camps will be presented one by one on www.youtube.de/361grad until September. Keep checking the channel. After only two days live, the site had received more than 500,000 views!

In Hungary, we’re well into our second year of an exciting program called WeAreOpen. It’s rallying cry is: “Being open is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also worth it.” To date, more than 750 companies, communities and organisations, big and small, have signed up in support This year’s version launched in March with a social media campaign to counter hate speech. Musicians, actors, celebrities, and Internet users (including students, doctors and teachers) shared their own experiences, taking a stand against prejudice, showing support for Roma, lesbians, gays,, Jews and handicapped. Their videos have received more than 200,000 views on YouTube.

At July’s Budapest Pride march, WeAreOpen supplied an army of colorful balloons and invited everyone to join. The march was live streamed the on YouTube and more than 20,000 watched it live.

This year’s WeAreOpen 2014 features research from the Gemius consulting firm about diversity and tolerance at the workplace. It found that more than half of Hungarian employees have already encountered negative discrimination.

The virus of hatred, unfortunately, will not vanish. 361 Grad Respekt, WeAreOpen and many more initiatives promoting tolerance are urgently needed.

Posted by Richard Schuster and Mounira Latrache, Communications managers
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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.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, Europe
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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.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, Europe, Middle East and Africa
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Global Network Initiative sets important precedent for transparency

Posted by: Ross LaJeunesse, Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations, and Lewis Segall, Senior Counsel

Five years ago, when we became founding members of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), we agreed that outside assessors would review how we’re doing against GNI’s Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. GNI brings together diverse stakeholders to address the risks to a free and open Internet, and conducting these assessments is an important part of the organization’s mandate.

This morning, GNI released its first ever Company Assessment Report. The organization used independent assessors to look into whether the GNI’s three founding companies — Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft — are upholding GNI’s principles. After reviewing how Google is implementing the principles in practice by assessing specific cases, the board found that we are taking the actions necessary to protect freedom of expression and privacy online.

Even though it can be uncomfortable to open up to outside scrutiny, we believe the assessment is a useful model for companies, NGOs, academics, and others working together to assess how companies respond to government requests related to human rights.

Today’s report also supports the organization’s other primary task, advocacy — ensuring that governments everywhere protect privacy and free expression online. If you’re interested in learning more about how Google responds to government demands for user information and content removal, check out our Transparency Report.  

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Modernising Amnesty International letter writing marathons

For many years, Amnesty International and its 3.2 million members have stood up for human rights by organizing Write for Rights – an annual global letter-writing marathon. People from over 80 countries come together to support individuals and communities suffering human rights abuses. Today, with our support, Amnesty will mark the International Human Rights Day by building a new digital platform for this year’s Write for Rights Marathon.

Amnesty’s marathon website will focus on three cases: that of a community leader imprisoned because he tried to stop clashes between religious groups, that of a community that is living in makeshift shelters after their houses were demolished and that of a man brutally attacked by the police. The new website will link to YouTube to show videos of individuals and communities suffering human rights abuses.

This launch represents what we hope is just a beginning. Over the coming months, we will support Amnesty to build a platform that will help Amnesty to respond in a rapid and reactive way to human rights violations.

Amnesty has a unique way of humanising the often abstract issues around free expression. This new website represents not just a modernisation of its letter writing techniques; it also demonstrates an acknowledgement that the future of free expression depends much on the future of the open and free Internet, which anyone with a connection, anywhere in the world, can use to reach a global audience.

For the individual cases featured in Amnesty’s appeal, the impact of letter writing is often life changing, restoring their freedom. As Julio de Peña Valdez, a released prisoner of conscience from the Dominican Republic said after his release, “The letters kept coming and coming: three thousand of them. The president was informed. The letters still kept arriving, and the president called the prison and told them to let me go. After I was released, the president called me to his office. He said: ‘How is it that a trade union leader like you has so many friends from all over the world?’ He showed me an enormous box full of letters he had received and, when we parted, he gave them to me.”

We have always believed in the liberating power of technology: more information means more discussion, better choices and eventually more freedom. Our goal with Amnesty is to raise awareness of the critical human rights issues around the world, including free expression, creating international pressure for their resolution.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
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Fighting against a censorship machine

The Internet is a remarkable platform for giving each of us a voice to reach a global audience. In some cases, unfortunately, people abuse this freedom by publishing unlawful content. Europe’s E-Commerce Directive provides clear rules for dealing with this content without sacrificing the Internet’s broader free expression mission. Importantly, the law says platforms should not be forced to become Internet police, monitoring all content to prevent certain material from ever getting online.

In a Paris courtroom today, former Formula One head Max Mosley’s lawyers asked a judge to upset this balance by imposing an alarming new model of automated censorship. He wants web companies to build software filters, in an attempt to automatically detect and delete certain content. Specifically, Mr. Mosley demands that Google build a filter to screen Google’s index and proactively block pages containing images from our results – without anyone, much less a judge, ever seeing it or understanding the context in which the image appears.

We sympathize with Mr. Mosley, and with anyone who believes their rights have been violated. We offer well-established tools to help people to remove specific pages from our search results when those pages have clearly been determined to violate the law. In fact, we have removed hundreds of pages for Mr. Mosley, and stand ready to remove others he identifies.

But the law does not support Mr. Mosley’s demand for the construction of an unprecedented new Internet censorship tool. In repeated rulings, Europe’s highest court has noted that filters are blunt instruments that jeopardise lawful expression and undermine users’ fundamental right to access information. A set of words or images may break the law in one context, but be lawful in another. As an example, a filter might end up censoring news reports about Mr. Mosley’s own court case.

While constituting a dangerous new censorship tool, the filter would fail to solve Mr. Mosley’s problems. Pages removed from search results remain live on the Internet, accessible to users by other means – from following links on social networks to simply navigating to the address in a browser. As an example, one page Mr. Mosley sought to remove comes from a blog, which according to public sources, receives the vast majority of its visits from sources other than web search.

This not just a case about Google, but the entire Internet industry. If Mr. Mosley’s proposal prevails, any start-up could face the same daunting and expensive obligation to build new censorship tools — despite the harm to users’ fundamental rights and the ineffectiveness of such measures.

We don’t hold paper makers or the people who build printing presses responsible if their customers use those things to break the law. The true responsibility for unlawful content lies with the people who produce it; how web companies work to reduce this content is set out in the E-Commerce Directive. We hope that the courts of France and Germany, where Mr. Mosley has also filed suit, will reject his request for a censorship machine.

Posted by Daphne Keller, Associate General Counsel
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