...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

January 25, 2006

Shame On Google

Screw democratic idealism, Google takes the money.

Google's launch of a new, self-censored search engine in China is a 'black day' for freedom of expression, a leading international media watchdog says.
Reporters Without Borders joined others in asking how Google could stand up for US users' freedoms while controlling what Chinese users can search for.

Its previous search engine for China's fast-growing market was subject to government blocks.

The new site - Google.cn - censors itself to satisfy Beijing.

. . .

It is believed that sensitive topics are likely to include independence for Taiwan and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, as well as human rights and democracy in China generally.

That pesky human rights again. Like CNN in pre-war Iraq, Google would rather stay in the market than actually stand up for something noble.
Google argues it would be more damaging to pull out of China altogether and says that in contrast to other search engines, it will inform users when access is restricted on certain search terms.
"More damaging" to whom? Google shareholders I'd guess.

Unbelievable Update: Google founder Sergey Brin, in a lame attempt to defend Google's decision, actually compared censorship of information about Taiwanese independence, the Tiananmen massacre, human rights and democracy with censorship of child pornography! Sort of.

Brin: . . . [W]e also by the way have to do similar things in the U.S. and Germany. We also have to block certain material based on law. The U.S., child pornography, for example . . .
I like how Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, summed this up:
I'm sure Google justifies this by saying it's just a couple of search words that people can't get to, but it's very difficult for Google to do what they just did and avoid the slippery slope. The next thing [China will] do is ask [Google] to tell them who is searching for 'Taiwan' or 'independence' or 'human rights.' And then it's going to find itself in the position of turning over the names of dissidents or simply of inquisitive individuals, for imprisonment.

The key in my view is that every company faces the same dilemma -- how do you maintain your principles while benefiting from the enormous Chinese market. And the answer is only going to come through safety in numbers. And it's going to require all of the search engines to get together and say 'None of us will do this.' And China needs search engines. If it can pick them off one at a time, it wins. If it faces all of the search engines at once banding together, the search engines win.

Google's got a great philosophy of 'Do No Evil.' And I'm sure they say well, 'It's better for us to be there than for us not to be there and there are just a few things that people can't search for.' . . . I would have expected better from Google.

Not me.

Posted by annika, Jan. 25, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: annikapunditry


An excellent topic to debate;

- Give partial access to chinese users, a passive form of propaganda, though they can see sites such as papers from America's Founders.
- Give no access to chinese users, let them find things on their own.

Different shades of gray; which is lighter, which is darker?

Again, good topic.

Posted by: will on Jan. 25, 2006

will, I'm on board with annika's cynicism. Who is the Chinese government to tell Google to toe the line? Oh... probably the one that's in charge of one of the world's larget economies...

Posted by: The Law Fairy on Jan. 25, 2006

Look, I don't agree with caving in to censorship or info control whatsoever. That said, for the immediate Google issue: Aren't we overreacting? I though I read somewhere that proxying through external (i.e. outside of China) connections was so widespread and difficult to control that Chinese government bureacrats were looking for different ways to control their netspace. This, I think, was part of their reason for getting behind the push to put a UN governing body on ICANN. Given that a very large number of Chinese users get around the current restrictions through proxies and other virtual connections anyway, does it really matter if Google puts self-censoring technology on their .cn sites? I would find it hard to believe that the net-saavy techheads at Google would be totally ignorant of the Chinese citizen's methods around their government's content-blocks. I'd almost think they're so fully aware of it that they'd easily "give in" to China's demands so the bureacrats can deceive themselves into thinking they're being effective.

I know, I know... I'm painting a picture based on assumptions, not a scenario based on firsthand knowledge. But 1. I *know* that proxying itself is a topic openly discussed by Chinese admins and bureaucrats, and 2. Most of the info about this topic is Google-able, so I'd find it hard for that company to not know things they themselves are carrying.

So, that's my point. Aren't we overreacting by assuming that Google is just caving in? They may be conceding to restrictions with full knowledge that the info is getting through anyway.

Posted by: ElMondoHummus on Jan. 25, 2006

It's all about greed. Normally not for meddling by Congress, but I wouldn't mind seeing hearings and legislation on this.

Posted by: Ron on Jan. 25, 2006

El Mondo, to me it isn't that they caved in to the Chinese, its that they refused to cooperate with the US justice department on a search for child porn.
What kind of priorities are those?

Posted by: Kyle N on Jan. 25, 2006

Well, in regards to Google and child porn, we can all just thank the ACLU for law suit after law suit to keep allowing child porn to be published and accessed on the internet.

Posted by: Nick on Jan. 25, 2006

It just puts the lie to all the bullshit which companies try to push as meaning through their corporate slogans and creeds. I am upset, but this is to be expected in enterprises where money really is the only thing that matters. To actually have an organization which follows "Do No Evil" you'd have to have people willing to do work for something greater than money. When companies are found to be doing what we all disinterestedly expect, that is spouting bullshit as meaning in order to get rich, it really does reveal the only path which such a mindset can come to. But as long as the examples are few, and harm is largely done to meaning, we can put up with an incredible amount of bullshit because of the comfort level (the ease with which we can distract ourselves) the invisible hand of capitalism supplies. People can and will do all sorts of work, but we exist on a level of meaning as well. So we get bullshit for the latter in order to get a good standard of living by the former. But then again, God didn't create us all to be monks & ascetics, did he? The point is what we can create is our greatest gift in life. What we can create is infused with meaning and business hijacks that, and I dunno how impotent y'alls rage is on the matter, but its clear that business does not care about meaning and soul except in terms of what is functional, and people are treated as such. The expectation for this should never change.

Posted by: Scof on Jan. 26, 2006

Now, I'm worried that those assholes at Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo will start filtering content from OUR searches that don't suit their agendas.

Posted by: reagan80 on Jan. 26, 2006

I found this site at Rightwingsparkle. While I am not a fan of child porn I don't support this warrentless seach by the Dept. of Justice. I think that most of you would not be for a house to house search for child porn if it was found that one person had child porn in your town. That would be an invasion of your privacy under the fourth amendment. If during this house to house search it was found out that there was an unlawful gun and your gun was siezed you'd be outraged at the injustice, and if it was found that you had nothing illegal you would be upset by the inconvenience. If it was found during the search that you had letters from a girl that you were having an affair with you would be angry and your wife would be leaving. I know that many might find this a stretch to compare computer searches with home searches I don't believe it is that much different and these were the kinds of unreasonable searches that the British government was doing that caused us to put that fourth amendment into the constitution. I don't agree with Google going to China and I don't think that Google will find less government interference there. By the way since it is my first visit to this site, I also feel the same way about the warrentless searches done by the NSA.

Posted by: patrick on Jan. 26, 2006


Still smelling the flowers fella? How is it that you are so concerned with possible limitations on your access to info by a private entity and yet you fawn and coo over the illegal searches, evesdropping, torture and mayhem committed by your furher W if it keeps your ass safe?

"Information may be the currency of democracy" but

"Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security, will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

Posted by: strawman on Jan. 27, 2006

There's a big difference between our gov't gathering information on terrorists living here that want to kill us and the Chinese gov't(with their multi-national corporate proxies) BLOCKING their citizens from gathering information on the web that doesn't suit their regime's agenda.

I see you like Ben Franklin quotes:


[The problem is, the quote above, misused and abused by civil liberties absolutists, does not reflect what Franklin actually said. Michelle Malkin and a few others have dug up the original quote, which reads:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

That’s a little more, um, nuanced, no?

Funny that the same lefties currently in a Franklin frenzy never quote this:

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

What is the NSA surveillance program, if not the ounce of prevention that beats a more violent cure for terrorism?

Really, lefties, what tactics would you find acceptable? You don’t want to use the military to fight terrorists. You don’t want to use legal tools to apprehend terrorists. And you don’t want to use technology to prevent terrorist attacks. So enlighten us—what do you want to do about al Qaeda?

Or how about this:

"We find by fatal experience that Congress consists of too many members to keep secrets."

Given how Congress has leaked like a seive throughout this war, Franklin seems prophetic.

Those who are misquoting him to score political points? Pathetic.

You can’t connect the dots if you don’t collect the dots. Franklin never said that, but if here were around today he would certainly add it to his almanac. He might even appear in the ad.]

Posted by: reagan80 on Jan. 27, 2006


A quick retort about dots.

Memo to the pres- "Bin LAden planning an attack on our soil" (paraphrased)

Pres- Lets take a vacation.

Codi- Nobody could imagine planes being used as missles" (paraphrased)

Memeo to condi weeks earlier and of course ten years earlier-"terrorists may try to use planes as missles"

You have way too much faith that collecting the dots means anything. You have no knowledge that the spying is on terrorists, it could be on anyone, they refuse to say who, don't they?

And, there have ALWAYS been in place ways for warrants to be obtained if even the tinest shed of probable cause is presented, these people DO NOT believe in probable cause. They believe in the rightous mission they are on and DO NOT believe they need explain it to anyone. If their mission were sane, and had a viable bases in reality it could be explained to the judge, who hears it in secret and issues the warrants. Even the judge quit and calls them criminals.

They are criminals lying to us, you especially, and telling you they are keeping you safe. Bullshit, they have stopped nothing, and gotten a conviction against NOT ONE person they have detained.

Posted by: Strawman on Jan. 28, 2006