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Earlier this summer we announced the formation of an Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten. As the Council begins its work, it is seeking comment from experts on the issues raised by the CJEU ruling. Experts will be considered for selection to present to the Council in-person during public consultations held this fall, in the following cities:
  • September 9 in Madrid, Spain
  • September 10 in Rome, Italy
  • September 25 in Paris, France
  • September 30 in Warsaw, Poland
  • October 14 in Berlin, Germany
  • October 16 in London, UK
  • November 4 in Brussels, Belgium
The Council welcomes position papers, research, and surveys in addition to other comments. We accept submissions in any official EU language. Though the Council will review comments on a rolling basis throughout the fall, it may not be possible to invite authors who submit after August 11 to present evidence at the public consultations.

Stay tuned for details on the Council’s activity.

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Campus is coming to Warsaw! Across Poland and Central Eastern Europe, innovators and entrepreneurs are building exciting new businesses, making the Polish capital a natural choice to launch our next Campus. We currently operate Campuses in London and Tel Aviv.



Campuses are Google's spaces for entrepreneurs to learn, connect, and build companies that will change the world. In them, entrepreneurs get unparalleled access to mentorship and training from their local startup community, experienced entrepreneurs, and Google teams. Campus Warsaw will join the Google for Entrepreneurs network. Appropriately, the announcement came on the 25th anniversary of Poland's first partially free democratic elections, illustrated in this Google Cultural Institute exhibition, which led to the collapse of the Iron Curtain.​

Our Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt met with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for today's inauguration. “Google started as a startup in garage, so supporting startups is part of our DNA," Eric said. "Our hope is that Campus Warsaw will supercharge tech entrepreneurs, strengthen the startup ecosystem and encourage even more innovation in Poland.”

The new Campus represents only part of our ongoing investment throughout the region. In Krakow, we have opened the Google for Entrepreneurs Krakow program. Along with Warsaw University, we have launched the Digital Economy Lab, with the goal of spreading knowledge about the crucial role digital technology plays in powering the economy and about what policies are required to generate maximum digital acceleration. Along with the Visegrad Fund, ResPublica and the Financial Times, we have started New Europe Challengers campaign to identify the next generation of innovators.

We’ll have more news about the details of Campus Warsaw soon, and look forward to filling it with startups in 2015!

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When eight technology companies presented a plan this month to reform government surveillance, a key request concerned transparency. At Google, we were the first company to publish a transparency report detailing the requests we receive from governments around the world to bring down content or hand over information on users.

But Google’s report represents only a narrow snapshot. It is limited to a single company. Imagine instead if all the requests for information on Internet users and for takedowns of web content in a country could be published. This would give a much more effective picture of the state of Internet freedom. As the year draws to a close, we’re happy to report that Panoptykon, a Polish NGO, published this month a preliminary Internet transparency report for Poland and Fores, a Stockholm-based think tank, issued a study in Sweden.

In Poland and Sweden, we helped initiate these transparency efforts and supported them financially. NGOs in six other European countries are working on national transparency reports. Our Estonian-supported transparency coalition already published a report last spring. In addition, university researchers in Hong Kong moved ahead over the summer with their own report. In Strasbourg, the Council of Europe recently held an important conference on the subject and hopefully will move ahead to present a series of recommendations on transparency for its 47 members.

Each transparency campaign takes a different approach - we hope this process of experimentation will help all of us learn. The Estonian effort, titled Project 451, focuses on content removals, not government surveillance, because the authors believe this is the most important issue in their country. The name of Project “451″ refers to HTTP Status Code 451, defined as “unavailable for legal reasons” and the report found that many web platforms were taking legal content down due to fears of legal liability.

The new Polish and Swedish reports attempt to shed light on government requests for information on users. Fores contacted 339 Swedish authorities and found that more than a third had requested data about users or takedowns of user-uploaded content. Panoptykon uncovered that Polish telcos received 1.76 million requests for user information in 2012, while Internet companies polled received approximately 7,500. In addition, Panoptykon discovered that many Polish government requests for information on users were based on a flawed or unclear legal basis.

Admittedly, both the Swedish and Polish reports remain incomplete. Not all Internet companies participated. Much relevant data must be missing. Like with our own Google report, we hope to continue filling in the holes in the future. Our aim is to see this campaign gather momentum because the bottom line is transparency is essential to a debate over government surveillance powers.

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Behind every computing breakthrough, there’s a story of the people who made it happen. Earlier this month, the spotlight shone on Poland’s computer pioneers with the launch of the educational project “XYZ — The history of computing in Poland”.

Led by the Center for Citizenship Education in collaboration with Google, the project seeks to raise awareness of Poland’s computing heroes among young people, as well as use them to illustrate the value of virtues such as ingenuity, curiosity and cooperation.

Materials produced so far include a timline, online videos, and posters highlighting key Poles and their achievements — from Abraham Stern’s mechanical calculators in the early 19th century, to Leon Lukaszewicz’s XYZ computer in 1958, to the team who built the K-202, Poland’s first computer with integrated circuits, in the 1970s. Coming soon are lesson plans and contests to make it easier for Polish educators to use these stories of local innovators to inspire their students.




The project was launched in fitting style at the University of Warsaw, where young innovators showcased their own work surrounded by posters of Polish computing heroes to dignitaries including Vint Cerf, one of the “fathers” of the Internet.

Students meet "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf
We’re proud to support this initiative and hope it helps inspire the next generation of Polish computer scientists to similarly great heights.

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Two decades ago, Central and Eastern Europe threw off the shackles of communism. Today, the region is among Europe’s most dynamic, and we recently held our first Big Tent in the region to investigate how Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary could play a leadership role in driving forward innovation on the web.



This newfound freedom encourages the region to embrace the Internet, Polish ministers said. “We prefer freedom,” Michal Boni, the digitisation minister, repeated twice in the keynote address. Deputy Foreign Minister Henryka Mościcka-Dendys argued that new technologies helping “civic initiatives gain wider ground for their actions.” A concrete example is opening up public data. By examining online license plate records Zuzana Wienk, a Slovak anti-corruption campaigner, demonstrated the bidding for street cleanup services was rigged.

The Internet already is driving economic progress. At the Big Tent, we showcased successful Internet startups and social innovators. They ranged from Polands’ game startup Dice+ and audio books pioneer Audioteka to Hungarys’ to K-Monitor transparency project and presentation tools developer Prezi. From Slovakia, traditional Ultra Plast plastic maker showed how to leverage its net presence to boost exports.

At the same time, the region needs to improve its education and regulation. While universities produce excellent engineers, they rank low in equipping graduates with needed business skills. Too few offerings exist for adult education. “If there is no lifelong learning, there is no lifelong earning,” quipped Jan Figel, Deputy Speaker of the Slovak Parliament. Other panelists wanted to see government change regulations to make it easier for companies to take risks, to start new businesses and to wind them down if and when they fail.

Our Big Tent took place in the wake of revelations that the U.S. intelligence agencies had conducted an online surveillance campaign. Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond stressed that the threats to the open web are not always from autocratic regimes and that any limitations to freedom online should be set narrowly. He acknowledged the dangers of online radical and racist speech. But he said that the Internet offers the best vehicle for dealing with the issue - “counter-speech” denouncing the hate.

Most of the debate had an optimistic tone, with faith in future innovation. The audience appreciated a demonstration of Google Glass. Slovakia’s Figel, who previously served as a European Commissioner, tried on a pair and checked the weather in the European Union’s capital Brussels. It was sunny outside in Warsaw - and grey and overcast in Brussels.

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It was a scintillating debate in a pivotal country for Internet Freedom. In the auditorium of Poland’s prestigious newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, renowned Oxford professor and writer Timothy Garton Ash hosted Digitisation Minister Michal Boni, Gazeta journalist Wojciech Orlinski, and another journalist Andrzej Grajewiski from Gosc Niedzielny, a newspaper linked to Roman Catholic Church.

Poland was the first in the former Soviet Bloc to bring down communist rule and install a free, democratic government. Thanks to this courageous history, Poles cherish Internet freedom. Huge demonstrations last year in the country’s main cities against the anti-piracy ACTA treaty helped lead to the treaty’s rejection in the European parliament – and meant that Poland was one of the most fervent advocates of the European Union rejecting last December a proposed United Nations treaty that could give governments too much control over the Net.

Timothy Garton Ash moderated the debate.
 Left to right: Michal Boni, Wojciech Orlinski andAndrzej Garjewski 
At the same time, much concern exists in the country about a worrying rise in hate speech and Polish judges have handed down surprisingly expansive rulings on intermediary liability.

Gazeta's main conference room was almost full.
Many of Poland’s most illustrious intellectuals filled Gazeta's main conference room. The newspaper’s founder, the former dissident, Adam Michnik, was supposed to show up only for a few minutes to say hello. Instead, he ended up staying for the full two and a half hours, and for the ensuing cocktail. Afterward, he said it was the first time an official associated with the Church (Gazeta is staunchly secular) had come to the newspaper headquarters.

Suffice it say that the debate was vigorous, discussing the frequent collision between privacy and freedom, the church’s concern about hate speech, and the need for Poland to become more aware of the issues around free expression on the Internet. We will be working hard in Poland to continue raising the importance of this issue.

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Want to show off appealing images of your business? We've just expanded Google Maps Business Photos program to six new European countries including: Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Switzerland.

The Business Photos program enables merchants to create 360-degree, interactive tours of their establishments. This imagery allows potential customers to look inside and explore businesses before they go.


Are you a business owner?
If you are a business owner in any of these locations, joining the program is easy. Simply hire a Trusted Photographer or Agency to take pictures. Using Street View technology, the photographer will create panoramic images from the photo shoot and upload them. These images will be available automatically to anyone who searches for your business on Google.com, Google Maps, Google Maps for Mobile and on your Google+ page or Places for Business listing. If a local photographer isn’t yet available in your neighborhood, let us know and we’ll do our best to find a photographer for you.


Photographers can sign up...
Whether you’re a professional photographer or photography agency we’d love to have you on board! We are recruiting more Trusted Photographers and Agencies. Please visit our website for Trusted Photographers and Trusted Agencies to learn more and sign up.

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Back in 2012, we added biking directions to our maps for a number of countries in Europe. It proved to be a popular feature among cycling amateurs and enthusiasts. We're now delighted to announce that we are now enabling biking directions in Google Maps for Germany, France, Poland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

Like in other countries, we've added information about bike trails, lanes and recommended roads directly to the map. In some countries we’ve worked with partner organisations. In others users have added hundreds of kilometers of biking paths through Google Mapmaker.

How does it work? I am a big tennis fan, so lets say I live in Hamburg and want to head over from my house in the suburbs to a tournament. I am able to grab my Android phone and ask Google Maps for the directions to the stadium. Google Maps will return a route that avoids busy streets and uses suitable bike paths. Time estimates for the route will be based on a complex set of variables accounting for the type of road, terrain and turns over the course of my ride. I also am able to turn by turn Navigation for my bike. I just plug earphones into my phone, switch over to Navigation and let Google Maps guide me through the city - just as from the car.



Of course, you can also use biking directions for a more challenging trip. As the season of big bike races in Europe has started, why not check what route Google suggests for a historical stage of the Tour de France? Our bicycle route for the classic stage from Biarritz to Bordeaux navigates on 206 beautiful, often car-free kilometers close to the Atlantic Ocean, compared to the rather boring 206 kilometers on the N10/A63 which is suggested for cars.



Regardless of the scope of your trip, roads and paths suitable for a bicycle are available by switching on the biking directions legend. This is designed to make it easy to find nearby trails for a recreational ride. Click on the widget at the top right of the map to turn on the "Bicycling” layer.

Suitable roads for riding your bicycle in Dublin, Ireland
One group of people who know where the best cycle paths are cyclists themselves! If you know about a new bike trail, please tell us. Either use the “Report a problem” link at the bottom right of the maps screen or jump into Google MapMaker and add the information to our maps.

A bike path on Google Mapmaker in Poland
We know that many avid cyclists have been awaiting this feature y, so head over to Google Maps and click ‘Get directions’ to try it. Then hop on your bike!

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Almost a year ago, massive street demonstrations forced the Polish government to reject an international treaty ACTA aimed at criminalizing copyright infringement. Today, we are moving away from this disarray and acrimony and launching a new constructive dialogue.

This week, 300 producers, distributors and consumers of creative content gathered in Warsaw’s Kino Kultura for the first ever CopyCamp. They shared their experience and perspectives on copyright, stories about how copyright works in practice, and setting the direction for the future of copyright in the digital world. The Modern Poland Foundation organized the event, under the honorary patronage of the Digitization Ministry. We partnered to make this possible, along with the Polish Filmmakers Association, the ZAiKS Collecting Society, Trust for Central and Eastern Europe.

Nina Paley opened the event. She is the author of a cartoon film titled “Sita sings the blues” which tells the story of Ramayana using popular songs as soundtrack. Behind the entertaining presentation was a serious message: she started to make money on her films only after she started to apply open licensing to her art.



Paley presented another amusing film.



More than 30 other speakers, among them creators and creators’ organizations, collecting societies, members of the European Parliament, social activists, journalists, lawyers, academics and students, gave fast-paced short presentations. They ranged from a filmmaker’s and musician’s perspective on fair use and creativity, through discussions on the role of collecting societies, copyright education, internet platforms, the complex copyright stories of key icons of Polish culture and the way news publishers work with new internet business models. I talked about how the new technologies and creativity work together for the benefit of the authors and users and how copyright impacts this synergy.

After anti-ACTA protests started the Polish debate on copyright, the speakers agreed that contemporary Polish copyright framework is antiquated. By getting traditional content industries and Internet advocates to sit down together, the CopyCamp represents a hopeful first step in what we will hope becomes a constructive partnership.

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Three decades ago in Gdansk, Poles rose up and created a marvel - an independent trade union Solidarity that, after a decade of non-violent struggle, threw off the shackles of communism. Today, the country is part of the European Union and has created a vibrant free market democracy - making it a potential leader in pushing Internet freedom. I travelled to Solidarity's birthplace, to give the keynote speech at the largest conference of Polish bloggers, Blog Forum Gdansk.



More than 200 young, energetic bloggers (and 120,000 online viewers) assembled in the conference room of the sparkling new Gdansk Stadium, constructed for the Euro 2012 tournament. In a keynote speech, we outlined the promise and perils of Internet freedom. For me, it was a moving moment - I remember covering the Solidarity revolution in the 1980s as a journalist and I compared how I took notes almost in secret and only could publish my stories after I left the country. Now Tweets and blogs were published direct from the conference room, in real time.

In many ways, Poland should be ripe for Internet freedom to flourish. More than any other Central European country under Soviet rule, Poland resisted and kept the spirit of free discourse alive with a vibrant samizdat press. Estonia recently captured first place in Freedom House's rankings and has become the poster-child for post-communist freedom fighters. Despite some initiatives supporting an open internet, Poland remains ranked at a distant 17th place.

Why? Our meetings with bloggers and NGOs in both Warsaw and Gdansk illustrated how the power of the Internet to revolutionise free expression is not yet full understood. Many complain about a worrying rise of hate speech. Many politicians are angry about comments posted on the free Internet, and libel and defamation suits proliferate. Some Polish court rulings seem to interpret liability laws in a restrictive way detrimental to Internet platforms, threatening to limit freedom of expression for users.

Our appearance at the Blog Forum Gdansk is just a first step in an effort to encourage change. Over the coming months, we will continue our activities to demonstrate how the Internet provides positive new possibilities for Poles to express themselves.

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Today you can discover 42 new online historical exhibitions telling the stories behind major events of the last century, including Apartheid, D-Day and the Holocaust. The stories have been put together by 17 partners including museums and cultural foundations who have drawn on their archives of letters, manuscripts, first-hand video testimonials and much more. Much of the material is very moving—and some is on the Internet for the first time.



Each exhibition features a narrative which links the archive material together to unlock the different perspectives, nuances and tales behind these events. Among others you’ll see:
  • Tragic love at Auschwitz - the story of Edek & Mala, a couple in love who try to escape Auschwitz
  • Jan Karski, Humanity’s hero - first-hand video testimony from the man who attempted to inform the world about the existence of the Holocaust
  • Faith in the Human Spirit is not Lost - tracing the history of Yad Vashem’s efforts to honor courageous individuals who attempted to rescue Jews during the Holocaust
  • Steve Biko - a 15-year-old’s political awakening in the midst of the Apartheid movement featuring nine documents never released in the public domain before
  • D-Day - details of the famous landings including colour photographs, personal letters and the D-Day order itself from Admiral Ramsay
  • The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II - an account of the 1953 Coronation including colour photographs
  • Years of the Dolce Vita - a look at the era of the “good life” in Italy including the fashion, food, cars and culture
As with the other archives that we’ve helped bring onto the Internet, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, you can zoom in to see photos in great detail and search through millions of items for a specific country, person, event or date. Watch our video for some guidance about how to find your way around the exhibitions.

The historical collections are the latest chapter in the work of the Google Cultural Institute, following the Art Project, World Wonders and the Nelson Mandela archives. We’re working closely with museums, foundations and other archives around the world to make more cultural and historical material accessible online and by doing so preserve it for future generations.

You can explore the many exhibitions at www.google.com/culturalinstitute. You can also follow us on our Google+ page. What you see today is just the start, so if you’re a partner interested in contributing your own exhibitions, please fill out this form.

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It’s often assumed that big cities benefit the most from the Internet, but we believe the net offers giant opportunities to everyone from urbanites to small town residents, farmers and nature lovers in the far-flung countryside. We recently tested this thesis in our first-ever European Google eTown awards, which recognize those areas that had most embraced the web’s potential over the last year.

The results were fascinating—and surprising. Smaller, quirky and plucky towns came out ahead. Scunthorpe, a steel town in the north of England, topped the U.K.’s list. Caen, a town in rural Normandy not far from the D-Day beaches and famed as the home of camembert cheese, came first in France. Salerno, nestled between the Amalfi and the Cilento Coast led the way in Italy and Elbląg, a remote northern town located in the region of 1,000 lakes won in Poland. In all four participating countries, eTown lists included towns of all sizes.

How did we determine our eTown awards? We broke down the U.K., France, Italy and Poland into all of their thousands of towns and then ranked local areas according to the growth in small businesses using AdWords over the last year. The top towns in each country won Google eTown awards.




The results back up recent research identifying the Internet as a main force driving growth throughout Europe. For example, a recent McKinsey report Internet Matters states that 2.6 Internet jobs are created globally for every job destroyed. Separately, the Boston Consulting Group estimates that by 2015 the web will account for 7.3 percent of Denmark’s GDP, 10 percent of the U.K.’s GDP and 5.5 percent of France’s GDP. The net drives growth of both big and small businesses—indeed another BCG report called “Turning Local” (PDF) makes clear that small businesses with a website grow faster than businesses without a web presence.

We’ve seen this ourselves, in the businesses of all shapes and sizes that we encountered as part of our eTown awards. An entrepreneur in Hartlepool in the U.K. sells golf balls online. A Polish programmer runs a data recovery business from Piaseczno. An plumber directs a heating systems company from Vicenza, Italy and a French retailer has reached new scooter customers online in Reims. Online advertising has helped them grow and reach more customers than ever before. When it comes to the Internet, our eTown awards show that anybody, almost anywhere, can boost a business by going online.

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If you are of my generation and love Jacques Brel, it's a great day. For my kids, who adore Selah Sue and fantasy character Mega Mindy, it's also a great day. From now on, videos of these Belgian artists will become easier to find on YouTube. For the first time, these Belgian artists and their estates will receive payments for allowing music lovers to listen to their music on YouTube.



This breakthrough stems from the licensing agreement signed today between collecting society SABAM and YouTube. SABAM was founded in 1922; it represents 36,000 composers, lyricists, publishers, and music video makers.

Throughout Europe over the past two years, YouTube has secured similar agreements with associations representing artists and authors in countries shown in blue: the UK, France (SACEM, SACD, SCAM, ADAGP), Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the Czech Republic, and Poland.



These agreements end old arguments about copyright, replacing them with win-win arrangements. For Europe’s musicians, YouTube has become an indispensable tool in reaching audiences. Artists are compensated when advertisements are displayed against YouTube partner’s videos.

The deals demonstrate our commitment to to promoting local European cultural creation. YouTube is innovating to help artists protect and manage their rights. Our state-of-the-art Content ID technologies let rights owners identify user-uploaded videos that contain their work and choose, in advance, what they want to happen when those videos are found. They can block them from YouTube altogether, or keep them up. The vast majority of right owners agree to keep their material online - and share in the revenue generated by advertising displayed against it.

Until now, when Belgians visited YouTube, they were taken to our global site. The launch of YouTube in Belgium means Belgians will see a home page featuring a wealth of content from their home country. Partners are welcome to join us and we’re happy to learn that large Belgian media companies such as broadcaster RTBF are interested in having parts of their archives appear. For my part, I plan to catch up on Jacques Brel videos.

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At the recent Economic Forum in Krynica, one of Central & Eastern Europe’s main economic forums, it became abundantly clear that Poland is positioning itself in the Internet fast lane.

The Polish internet economy already accounts for 2.7% of GDP and is expected to reach up to 4.9% by 2015, according to a report published by the Boston Consulting Group. This means that the Internet already accounts for more than the country’s traditional industrial leader, coal mining, and soon will drive more economic activity than such key sectors as energy, finance and health-care. (Disclosure: Google commissioned BCG’s report, though it was carried out independently).



Good news as this is, evidence shows that Poland could do even better. In the UK, the Internet already generates 7.2% of GDP, almost three times the Polish figure. According to the BCG e-Intensity Index, the main challenges to Polish online growth include the low levels of infrastructure development and the online activity of businesses. At present, only 60% of households enjoy Internet access - and only 50% of Polish businesses leverage internet tools.

At the same time, Poland boasts many advantages. In 2010, the BCG report showed that it ranked number one in Europe in terms of the number of search queries per internet user. Polish is second globally in terms of the number of entries created in Wikipedia per person speaking a given language.

The Internet presents great opportunities for both start-ups and existing small and medium businesses. At the Krynica Summit, panel members discussed how Polish entrepreneurs can take advantage of the Net to jumpstart their businesses.

Speakers called for government and private sector collaboration, and my Polish colleague Agata Waclawik-Wejman pointed to our Internet Revolution campaign. We worked with the Polish Ministry of Economy to offer advice on how Polish small and medium businesses can get online using both Google and non-Google tools, including a free package to help them establish a web domain, create a website and launch their first online advertising campaign.

The success of this initiative has exceeded all our expectations. More than 45,000 small entrepreneurs so far have signed up, a sign of just how fast and far-reaching the Polish Internet Revolution is proving to be.

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When I last visited Gdansk two decades ago, the independent Solidarity movement had just won a resounding victory in the communist world’s first free elections. Since then, I have seen Poland transformed into a prosperous democracy and I recently returned to speak at the All About Freedom festival addressing the meaning of freedom of expression in the Internet age.

It is tempting to compare Solidarity with the evolution of the Internet. Just like Solidarity, the Internet has proven a powerful grass-roots force for freedom of expression. At a newly created Solidarity Museum, a room is devoted to the underground press that flourished under one party communist restrictions. Any future Internet museum will surely contain rooms about the power of bloggers uploading their own opinions around the world and videos taken by mobile phone and posted on YouTube in places like Iran.

For much of the 1980s, the totalitarian regime in Poland attempted to crush Solidarity, declaring martial law and imprisoning its founder Lech Walesa and other Solidarity leaders. Today, it’s clear that certain governments are attempting to control their citizens by monitoring or censoring information on the Internet. We’re also seeing a general increase in the number of requests from democratic governments - for information about Internet users or for removal of information from Google’s index of the web. Some of these requests are legitimate and based in the rule of law and we honor them. In the interests of transparency, however, we recently launched an online Government Requests tool to show where these requests originate.

Poland certainly values free expression. My colleague, Susan Pointer, is in Krakow this weekend, speaking in the ‘New Technologies for Democracy’ session at the High-Level Democracy Conference. She will be focusing on the important role that technology - and internet technology in particular - can play in facilitating communication, participation, transparency and accountability in decision-making across the world.

In the end, Solidarity emerged victorious from its long struggle by sticking to its values of non-violence, free speech and multi-party democracy. Where governments try to crack down on the free exchange of ideas on the web, I believe the web’s innate openness will end up triumphing.

Posted by William Echikson, Head of Communications South, East Europe, Middle East and Africa

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Poland is one of the few countries that is emerging from Europe’s financial crisis relatively unscathed. While many European Union members struggle to raise funds, Poland’s zloty remains stable and interest rates low.

During my recent visit, my former Dow Jones colleague, now Bloomberg bureau chief Dennis McQuaid, told me how the government just had sold off a large state-owned insurance company – and the offering was seven times oversubscribed, making it the country’s biggest ever IPO. Poland’s economy has kept growing and the streets of Warsaw bustle with well-dressed shoppers and the clatter of construction.

Personally, this success is gratifying. As a journalist, I covered Poland during the 1980s when it laboured under communism. Stores were empty then. But the Polish spirit amazed me – how a courageous people could undertake a successful non-violent, spiritually-based, worker- and intellectual-led revolution. In 1989, I watched some Solidarity supporters set up the country’s first free newspaper in a day care centre. It was called Gazeta Wyborcza.

Today, Gazeta Wyborcza is Poland’s top paper, part of the giant Agora group. It operates out of an airy, sparkling, shiny steel headquarters building. Grzegorz Piechota, the paper’s special projects editor, presented an upbeat outlook for the future. While Gazeta hasn’t escaped the pain of the transition online, it has embraced the web, starting dozens of sites targeted to different audiences, from teenage girls to senior citizens. “We know we have no choice except to move online,” Piechota said.

For Google, Poland represents a successful laboratory for bringing business online. Nimble, small, family owned companies dominate the economy. Yet most have little or no online presence. While four in every five consumers are searching for information online about products and services, a Google-sponsored study last year showed that fewer than half of small Polish businesses have any online presence.

In order to get Poland online, we launched an Internet Revolution campaign at the end of last year, supported by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The program offers advice on how Polish companies could get online using both Google and non-Google tools, including a free package to help them establish a web domain, create a website and launch their first domestic or international online advertising campaign.

The success of this initiative has exceeded our expectations. Last week, we announced at a press conference that over 10,000 small entrepreneurs had signed up. The Polish economy may ‘only’ rank 21st globally, but it’s clear that the country has a healthy appetite for making the internet an integral part of doing business and driving growth for the future.

Posted by Bill Echikson, Head of Communications, South, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa

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As voters began to go to the polls to elect a new European Parliament, we thought it would be interesting to use some of advanced tools to capture the vote's trends. By deploying our public tool Insights for Search, we wer, we were able to compare the searching patterns of millions of Brits, French, German, Italians and Poles and compute how interest in a topic changes over time. In each country, we looked at the search for political parties in the run up to the election.

The results were fascinating. While many ruling parties showed surprising resilience, the searches underlined how non-traditional and often anti-European parties have gained ground. The UK presents a striking example. Interest in both Labour and the Conservatives stagnated, while smaller parties like the Greens and UK Independence party surged ahead in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal.

A word of caution is in order. It is possible to slice these data in multiple ways. People use a variety of different forms of shorthand when they search, and political parties are no different. The search queries compared here represent the least ambiguous versions of searching for a given party--BNP is a bank in addition to a party, of course, but the Greens share their name with a color and both Labour and Conservative are likewise words in their own right. In addition, there is nothing exhaustive or completely conclusive about these queries. Searches don't necessarily translate into votes.

Even so, we believe that large amounts of anonymous data provides a powerful tool for making important insights. Our Google Flu Trends allows us to predict the spread of the disease faster than public authorities and could end up saving lives. So take a moment to ruminate over the following search results taking the political pulse in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.

United Kingdom


FRANCE

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP dominated searches and the Socialist Party continued to stagnate. But in the final days before the vote, the left-wing "Front de Gauche" and the right-wing "Front National" gained traction. The Greens, meanwhile, failed to gain real momentum.



GERMANY

In Germany, searches veered left. While the ruling coalition continued to dominate, junior left wing partner SPD rose faster than the Chancellor Angela Merkel's center right CDU. Centrist Free Democrats scored a strong showing and the radical left-wing Die Linke looked poised to surprise and the Greens showing a strong performance.


Italy

Italians seemed to favor the left wing PD and IDV formations over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's ruling PDL People of Freedom. Little change was visible over the final month of campaigning.


POLAND

Poles turned first to Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform. But a surprising number searched for anti-European, nationalist party Libertas, which was born out of the Irish No vote against the Lisbon Treaty.


Posted by Bill Echikson, Senior Manager, Communications