Who's doing evil, now?

We already know that Google is censoring the information accessible to its China search engine, so that pesky trivialities like what really happened at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and any criticism of the Great Communist Plan To Lead China Into Capitalism won't inadvertently turn up in search results. How does this affect the typical person using google.cn?

The Google Censorship Viewer displays, side-by-side, the results for any search term punched into google.com and google.cn. In particular, a search for 'Tiananmen' throws up jaw-droppingly different results.

A less in-your-face but also telling comparison is google vs. google.cn, which maps similarities between the first 100 results for any search term on the two engines. When I searched for 'Tiananmen', there was absolutely no overlap among any of the 100 results.

(links via InsideGoogle)

Say it with me: censorship is evil, not just because it restricts the flow of information, which should be free, but also because it acclimatises a person to the notion that information and creativity can have its wings clipped and then you get this.


Technorati Tags: , ,



At 2/03/2006 9:24 am , Blogger Trebuchet said...

Then again, Google is an insidious tool of democracy in a most literal and disturbing sense. Your search results are determined by everyone else's!

At 2/03/2006 10:05 am , Blogger Johnny Malkavian said...

The people behind the your school's blog doesn't seem to be all too alien to the concept of censorship themselves.

Not very much unlike kids running around with a pair of scissors. A responsibility they are not ready to handle, and would hence very likely eventually hurt themselves.

At 2/04/2006 1:52 am , Blogger Tym said...

DS > All the more the world needs it.

JM > First of all, it's not my school's blog. I am in no way affiliated with the school and whatever they choose to do is their business. I mean, it is their blog. Also, they're hardly anywhere near Google in terms of the sphere of influence.

My own rule of thumb: "Don't like, don't read lor!"

At 2/04/2006 2:47 am , Blogger Johnny Malkavian said...

Hahaha. I apologise for the booboo. Must've gotten you confused with another jc teacher.

I concur with your rule of thumb; I wouldn't have visited that blog had I not followed the link you have so kindly submitted to Tomorrow, and would probably not do so again anytime in the near future. Friends will know that it's the same rule i preach and practice with much fervour.

Don't like, don't read. Don't like what you read, don't whine about it.

On a seperate note, if you are not affiliated with the school, how would you have known which one I'm talking about?

No matter, the question is of no consequence and begs no answer.

At 2/04/2006 2:56 am , Blogger Tym said...

I used to be a JC teacher, at the school in question, and I submitted the blog post in question to Tomorrow.

At 2/04/2006 4:49 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, using google.cn in Singapore gives you different results from using it in China. The same applies to google.com, due to reasons already mentioned in other comments to this post.

I disagree with your implication that google is being evil by complying with a country's regulations in order to do business there. And the people who are advocating a google boycott are not thinking hard enough - namely: what were the alternatives before google?

For a better picture on other sides of the argument, check out http://www.danwei.org/archives/002399.html and this: http://anonymouse.org/cgi-bin/anon-www.cgi/http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20060128_1.htm

A couple of years ago, google would still be blocked periodically when some politically sensitive events were happening - but we simply found ways round it. (eg. typing in the IP address instead of the url) - this still goes on: people are still finding ways to circumvent the censors. I would say that one unintended effect of censorship is that it encourages resourcefulness - in that ppl living and working in China are develop more information access savviness than those operating in places where censorship is less keenly felt (or perhaps disguised by the illusion of choice) but nevertheless exist.

At 2/04/2006 5:15 am , Blogger Tym said...

First of all, thanks for the links to the articles. More information is good.

Yes, different Google engines throw up different results (and I've got my own suspicions about the .sg engine), but I think the difference here is in the fact that the .cn engine is not just customising search results for a user based on their geography, but omitting results which the Chinese government finds objectionable. In the .cn engine, all that information doesn't exist in the first place. It's kinda like searching in a bizarro universe, or what using the internet might be like with certain child safety filters on. I think the links I highlighted do a good job of dramatising the effect that can have on one's search results, which is something one might not get from a dry news story on the business or political implications of Google's decision. And the point about dramatically different search results holds, whether a user is using the .cn engine in China or in another country.

I think all companies do evil but it's disingenuous if Google keeps up its mantra, "Do no evil", in this way. I mean, just abandon the mantra already and I wouldn't quibble as much. It's one thing to make certain compromises in the name of commerce; it's something else to claim to hold the moral high ground while doing so. I'm certainly not proposing a Google boycott. How could I, when I can't do my job or transact any email without Google? Which also disturbs me, on some level, but I don't have a solution for that yet.

I'm glad that people in China (I assume that you're one of them?) have found ingenious ways to circumvent the censors. But my broader (and idealistic) point is: they shouldn't have to. Information should be free and the user should be left to judge. Governments shouldn't do the judging for us.

As for which comes first when it comes to "opening up" a closed country, democracy (whatever that word means to you) or economic engagement --- that's a thorny issue that I have no answers for, either. :|


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]