Why Germans get their Flickrs in a twist over ‘censorship’

This morning’s Observer column

The Flickr firestorm is just the latest refutation of the enduring myth that the internet is uncontrollable. While technologically adept users can usually find anything they’re looking for, the vast majority of the internet’s 1.1 billion users are at the mercy of local laws, ordinances and customs.

Flickr users in Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong and Korea are finding themselves at the sharp end of this, because Yahoo needs to conform to local laws if it is to continue to trade in those jurisdictions. The same forces explain why Google provides only a restricted search service to its Chinese users. Libertarianism is all very well when you’re a hacker. But business is business.