‘Digital refugees’ show importance of online freedom, says Google

digital freedom

High-profile websites need to protect online freedom of speech to give voice to "digital refugees," Google has claimed.

Earlier this month, a massive hacking attack took down Twitter and slowed down Facebook, LiveJournal and other social networking sites. While the attack affected millions of users, it was apparently targeted at just one person a blogger known as Cyxymu.

"This goes to show how far suppressive groups will go in order to impede on free speech," said Google's Blogger product manager Rick Klau, writing on the Google Public Policy blog.

Because of these attacks, Cyxymu has been forced to jump from one platform to another "in hopes of getting his message out after each blog is shut down by cyber opponents," Klau said, describing the blogger as a "digital refugee."

"It's becoming easier to attack stand-alone blogs and websites, and much like political refugees, these bloggers and their sites are targeted and forced to relocate or be silenced," he added.

"Consequently, bloggers are fleeing to higher profile sites like Twitter (and Blogger, among others) in order to continue exercising their right to free expression."

Google admitted that Blogger was a target alongside LiveJournal, Twitter and Facebook, and helped work with its social networking rivals to uncover the source of the attack and lessen the impact.

"While Blogger was able to withstand the attack this time around, we hope that governments and companies will recognize the threats to free expression that exist today and will work together to ensure that the internet continues to provide many safe havens for dissidents," he added.

That stance might sound questionable to Google's critics, as the firm infamously has worked with the Chinese government to censor search results on groups such as the Falun Gong.