Governments and internet firms are wrestling with the rules for free speech online

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Governments and internet firms are wrestling with the rules for free speech online

Oct 6th 2012 | from the print edition  The Economist

THE arrest of a senior executive rarely brings helpful headlines. But when Brazilian authorities briefly detained Google’s country boss on September 26th—for refusing to remove videos from its YouTube subsidiary that appeared to breach electoral laws—they helped the firm repair its image as a defender of free speech.

Two weeks earlier those credentials looked tarnished. Google blocked net users in eight countries from viewing a film trailer that had incensed Muslims. In six states, including India and Saudi Arabia, local courts banned the footage. In Egypt and Libya, where protesters attacked American embassies and killed several people, Google took the video down of its own accord.

The row sparked concern about how internet firms manage public debate and how companies based…

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