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Google embroiled in Kazakhstan kerfuffle

The company has started rerouting requests made to Google.kz to Google.com instead, accusing the Kazakhstani government of trying to 'fracture' the web
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Google is to start rerouting requests made to its Kazakhstani search website to the Google.com page instead, as it says the regime in that country is "attempting to create borders on the web".

The Kazakhstani government told Google in May that it would have to run Google.kz on servers physically inside Kazakhstan if it wanted to continue using the domain, according to a blog post on Tuesday by Google's head of research and systems infrastructure, Bill Coughran.

"This requirement means that Google would have to route all searches on Google.kz to servers located inside Kazakhstan," Coughran wrote. He explained that routing searches in this way would have an impact on the speed with which such searches would be handled.

Coughran said this request had put Google in "a difficult situation". User privacy and free expression were factors in the company's subsequent decision, alongside that of network efficiency, he said.

"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," he said.

If we were to operate Google.kz only via servers located inside Kazakhstan, we would be helping to create a fractured internet.
– Bill Coughran, Google

"Unfortunately, this means that Kazakhstani users will experience a reduction in search quality, as results will no longer be customised for Kazakhstan," Coughran said. He added that Google is encouraging governments and stakeholders to preserve the open internet around the world.

Freedom of speech is severely limited in Kazakhstan. The country placed 172nd out of 191 nations assessed for freedom of the press in global rankings produced by US think tank Freedom House (PDF) this year.

Google's dispute with Kazakhstan echoes earlier issues with other national authorities, such as those in China, which is at number 184 on Freedom House's list. The company has reported hacking attempts that appear to have originated in China, and a censorship-related spat between Google and the Chinese authorities last year led the search provider to temporarily redirect visitors to Google.cn to Google's Hong Kong site instead.

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