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Google Teams Up With China Mobile  (View post)

Ramibotros [PersonRank 10]

Thursday, January 4, 2007
16 years ago4,351 views

Was it really [buzzword bingo]-enabled?

DPic [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Is it possible that Google wasn't simply being a bit evil in their move to censor China search results, but that they actually wanted to experiment with censorship, the best ways to go about it, etc? Similar to them buying YouTube which I believe was in a great part to gather information on how YouTube grew so quickly.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

DPic, we're left to guess about details. The first question in terms of morals once you accept that they do censorship, IMO, is to ask, "So then do they accept every censorship request, or do they defend against some censorship requests?" I haven't gotten a real answer to this. Google’s David Drummond said, "From time to time, as you would expect, with any authority you have conversations about how that law should be applied in a particular circumstance," and that's all.

In the context of an experiment with Google trying to find out the best ways to go about it, as you put it, it's interesting to note that results to some search queries get worse in Google China, not better. Google's Peter Norvig in February 2006 (during the first months of Google China censorship) said:

<<Another example here searching for bird flu. And here the results are the same, except that there’s an extra ad on the compared to the (...)

And sure they [searchers in China] want to know about democracy and Falun Gong and so on, but really they want to know about their day-to-day information. And they want to know about things like outbreaks of bird flu and so on.

And so we’re giving them that and we think that’s the most important.>>

According to Peter Norvig, bird flu wasn't censored then. Well, it turns out a search for [bird flu] and [bird flu outbreak] is censored now in

Other questions we can ask once we accept the censorship as a constant, not a variable: do they make the blacklist public (transparency – there is no trade secret involved as competitor's arguably have the same blacklists)? Do they allow other, smaller countries to submit their own blacklists as well (equality, fairness and neutrality)? Do they update us with new information reg. China censorship in the official blogs (communication)? Do they disclose censored search results (transparency, neutrality of search results)? Do they only censor what is censored by ISPs anyway (pragmatism)? Do they disclose why a search result is censored, and which one (transparency)? Do they speak with the same arguments to a Chinese gov't official as they do at a Western tech conference (honesty)?

We have answers to some of these questions.
- Google doesn't make a blacklist public, nor do they let us know of details of how their censorship system works (I've asked, they don't tell)
- Smaller countries are not known to get the same rights as Chinese officials; thus, search results become a matter of political power
- Google does disclose when a search result is censored (they didn't always do this, e.g. in Germany, but it's good they do it now), though they won't tell you why that is the case, or which result is missing

We can't answer all the questions, though. Within the logic of propaganda, this makes sense, because censorship is about secrecy, not transparency. Google is playing a part in that system, whether they prefer to or not.

M [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

This is the usual censorship test and it's a pretty annoying one.

Firstly, you are searching for an English phrase on a Chinese search engine. Unsurprisingly, most mentions of the English rendering are found on the English web, and most mentions of this square in the west are mentions of the events that occurred there.

Secondly, Tiananmen Square is actually just a regular square in China. Life goes on, things happen etc. The most relevant rankings of this search term for a Chinese person, even with the English rendering, are more likely to be actual regular pictures of the square (eg from tourism sites) and of modern events than something that happened in 1989.

Not that I am denying censorship exists, but this particular example is silly. If you want to prove censhorship try using the names of particular Chinese politicians instead.

It's also worth noting that censhorship is not a peculiarly Chinese thing. Other countries do it too. In the US the government doesn't like to be reminded about global warming, so reports written by its own scientists are suppressed, for instance. Certain types of pornography are also commonly censored in the west.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

> Firstly, you are searching for an English phrase
> on a Chinese search engine. Unsurprisingly, most
> mentions of the English rendering are found on

Chinese phrases are just as censored, as previous tests showed. For your reference, here is the Chinese search for [tiananmen square]:

Both in simplified Chinese as well as traditional Chinese, you will notice there's a censorship disclaimer at the bottom of In both Chinese searches on, at least some images from the demonstrations are showing. However, relevancy on the web itself is skewed in this case; Chinese are living under the influence of propaganda and they are in actual physical *danger* if they post about certain political issues in Chinese, in China. That is why you will find that both:
- the "relevancy" according to Google's measurement of backlinks is skewed, because Chinese people are likely not to freely link online.
- on average, the understanding of these issues is skewed because of constant propaganda. Thankfully there's enough Chinese seeing right through the propaganda.

Life cannot eternally "go on", as you put, unless an issue is resolved – but this is a suppressed trauma. It might not appear in public Chinese discussions yet, but eventually it will... it might take decades.

> It's also worth noting that censhorship is not
> a peculiarly Chinese thing. Other countries do it too

I absolutey agree, which is why I also regularly blog about it:
... and so on with more posts on this, some dating back to 2003.

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