Seeking To Avoid A “Fractured Internet” Google Pulls Out Of Kazakhstan

In the words of Borat, the fictional Kazakh journalist and alter-ego of comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, the government of Kazakhstan is not being “very nice” to the internet. The autocratic government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been for the past several years seeking to assert more control over the internet and online content available to Kazakh citizens.

It recently issued an order that all internet traffic with “.kz” domain names had to be routed through servers within the country. Google isn’t having any of it and said that it would no longer operate Google.kz:

Last month, the Kazakhstan Network Information Centre notified us of an order issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information in Kazakhstan that requires all .kz domain names, such as google.kz, to operate on physical servers within the borders of that country . . . If we were to operate google.kz only via servers located inside Kazakhstan, we would be helping to create a fractured Internet. So we have decided to redirect users that visit google.kz to google.com in Kazakh.

Google could also simply redirect people to Google.ru given that more Kazakh citizens speak Russian than the official language of the country Kazakh.

As more authoritarian governments look around the world and see the “destabilizing” role the internet has played in the “Arab spring” and other democratic political uprisings, more will seek to assert control in one form or another over online content and communication or organizing tools available to their citizenry. China is Google’s most visible and formidable opponent on the matter of free speech online.

Google publishes a “censorship map” (transparency report) that reflects and logs official requests for removal of information from Google’s index in that country. Ironically Kazakhstan has only 10 requests vs. more  than 4,000 from the US during the same period.

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Google: General | Google: Outside US

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    Google’s vision for a new world order is as frightening as the dictators’: If a government doesn’t act the way Google wants it to, Google may not only pull the plug on its services — it may just help foment a rebellion (as it did in Egypt).

    The people at Google should think long and hard about the consequences of making themselves a power for change in a world filled with radicals and nutcases. Not everyone who shares the Internet shares Google’s warm and fuzzy principles.

  • Winooski

    First of all, Google didn’t “foment” the rebellion in Egypt. What I believe you’re referring to is Wael Ghonim, Google’s exec for Middle East & Africa marketing, who had anonymously run a Facebook page protesting the government’s violent crackdown, was himself imprisoned for it, and thereby became a cause célèbre for the movement:

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/news/2011/02/freed-google-manager-helped-spark-egypt-revolt

    Second of all, you *really* think the big G is gonna pull out of any country with a substantial-enough market? Even in China, with which Google famously has huge problems, they’re still doing business, though I think they link out to Google Hong Kong:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_China

    Bottom line: Money talks (or it doesn’t talk, it swears, per Bob Dylan), and if there were a substantial enough market for Google in Kazachstan, I’m sure they’d find some way to work out a presence there, autocrat or no.

  • Winooski

    (Make that Kazakhstan, not Kazachstan. Sure wish we could edit our posts “ex post facto”. [;-)] )

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