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Google Self-Censors Criticism of China Olympics  (View post)

nsnboy [PersonRank 1]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007
7 years ago3,357 views

In China, The government has given us limited freedom.What a pity.
I believe that with the progress of society will be increasingly open

Juan Valdez [PersonRank 0]

7 years ago #

One thing to mention is that the Chinese government often cuts access to Google with no warning or explanation. Their official policy is that they do not censor the web, but if Google lets some uncensored results through, the government has no problem dropping Google's DNS entry into a black hole.

Meanwhile, Baidu is a total government lackey. Not only do they willingly censor, they regularly report Google's infractions to the government.

Which is the lesser evil? Censoring the minimal amount allowable or let a willing censor control the market? You can choose not to participate, but I'd argue that the Chinese market would be worse off.

George [PersonRank 0]

7 years ago #

Link Bait :p

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> Which is the lesser evil? Censoring the minimal
> amount allowable or let a willing censor control
> the market?

Sometimes Baidu censors less than Google. Search for the name of Chinese politicians in the respective image search engines:

Baidu: 42,800 results
image.baidu.com/i?tn=baiduimag ...
Google China: 0 results + censorship disclaimer
images.google.cn/images?comple ...

Note that additional to web results, Google in China also censors:
- News results
- Image results
- Book results
- and Map results

Wanted [PersonRank 1]

7 years ago #

At least Google is showing a message that some results are missing, other search engines don't even do that. So at least in Google's case you *know* that something is missing and you might want to do some more research in the field. If you use a competitor's search, you don't even know something is missing, so a user might believe that they are showing all that's available on the web.

Also it's not up to Google or any company to change the government, especially a foreign one. Now *that* would be a real evil – a company so powerful that they can influence a foreign government and change laws. (I'm not saying it doesn't happen at all, because we know about lobbying in Western world, but I consider it quite evil). The only people in power to change the goverment are the citizens of the said country, in this case China. If there's no will in the nation to change the rules, they will stay that way and no company should interfere.

BTW, I'm from Poland, which was under a similar regime for 45 years and if you remember history it's not a foreign company, or nation, or person who made the change in 1989 – it were the Poles themselves who decided they don't want this kind of government anymore.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

I agree with all of your points, Wanted: it's better to show a disclosure than to show none, Google is not the main responsible party, and it's up to people of a country to change their government (note that also in 1989, Chinese students tried though, and were brutally put down). However, I still want to know from Google who's responsible for censoring, and how they decide what to censor and what not to censor. Or do we just accept every Google self-censorship due to e.g. a disclosure? So again, I think it's about specifics of this case. Google press support decided to ignore questions in this direction.

Wanted [PersonRank 1]

7 years ago #

About the students, we know it's not easy to oppose such a gov, Poland too had several brutal incidents before (in 1956, 68, 70, 80), though we are talking about a much bigger scale in China.

The specifics of how the censorship works are indeed not disclosed, and I think this is not without a reason – the Chinese goverment does not officially talk about it and I suppose that one of the conditions for search engines to invest in China was to keep this status quo. So they must keep their mouth shut, or lose the business.

Hong Xiaowan [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

Most chinese user like game, movie and chat online.
For politics topic, about 0.005% have one years focus on it, about 12 0000 persons. And only 200 persons sticking on it.

For baidu, its server in China, so need not pass Great Fire Wall. But Google's server not in China. So the data need to pass Great Fire Wall. So that's why Baidu can have more sex and pocitical contents.

China gov goverment know all the search engins have problem. But Google appearing more than googles. It is not truth, but Gov only see the number of GFW.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

Frankly speaking I dont think the chinese citizens actually care a darn about what they see or rather not seeing.. they are pretty much content with what they have and use..

"What the eye not see'th the heart not feel'th .. :)-

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> it were the Poles themselves who decided
> they don't want this kind of government anymore.

In '89 regime agreed to talk with the democratic opposition, because regime was weak. Support of powerful foreign companies could indeed prevent Polish Round Table agreement from happening. And the Google's case is more tricky, because it's all about freedom of ideas and speech. Chinese government tries to prevent its citizen from even thinking that "they don't want this kind of government anymore". And Google supports Chinese government in this very aim.

And really, that's not the point. That's just not the thing to do. You don't collaborate with a totalitarian regime and support it in its fight against democratic changes. You don't do that as a citizen, and you don't do that as a company. Just not.

As you probably know there is a big discussion in Poland about punishment for people who once agreed to collaborate with Polish communistic security police. Those people had many more reasons to agree than Google has – they had to live and provide for their families under this government all their lives. That hadn't privilege of being abroad as Google has. But almost everybody agrees that those people have nothing to be proud of (thought not everybody things they should be denounced/punished). Google should be ashamed of itself...

Marcin Sochacki (Wanted) [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

The regime was weak thanks to previous, unsuccessful attempts to overcome it, but they laid ground for '89. It was also weak because of a very bad economic situation, which is not the case in China – that's why most people there don't bother about censorship, they value economic growth more.

Ludwik, have you checked where most of the products you use in everyday life are made? I guess quite a lot of them come from China. So here you go – you are supporting the oppressive govt of China right now (people who make your t-shirts are underpaid, working in sweatshops, horrible conditions, etc.) – along with the milions in Western World. We are of course not directly involved in talks with said govt, but we are involved economically and our hands are dirty as well.

Saying that Google should have not invested in China is easy for you, but try to think from the company's POV. China is a market you just can't ignore in business terms. Saying that you will totally avoid China because of their govt means you lose a huge portion of the market. It's like saying "Google should build the website according to W3C standards and ignore if it doesn't work in IE". Would you agree to that? We should expect Google to keep up to their motto "don't do evil", but on the other hand we need to set realistic targets. A target "don't invest in China until they stop censorship" is an unrealistic one, it just can't happen from business POV. So once they decided it's time to invest, it was only the question of how to do it in a non-evil way. I think they are doing it, maybe making some mistakes on the way, because it's a very different environment, but still doing OK. Facts:
1) they are showing when censorship kicks in, (others don't)
2) they won't allow Gmail or orkut to avoid privacy concerns, (Yahoo turned in several journalists already)
3) the datacenters are outside China, so the govt can't get access to logs by physically taking over the machines, should they need it

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> Saying that you will totally avoid China because
> of their govt means you lose a huge portion of the market

Marcin, let's not forget there was a 90%* well-working, non-censored Google for China *before* Google.cn. So this was never the issue of "totally avoiding" this country. It was the issue of a smoother running system with government-selected missing information, vs a less-smooth running system which is government-independent. Google chose to pick the former in 2006, and according to information from Sergey Brin**, in mid-2006 most Chinese users were still using the non-censored Google.com version.

*By Google's own estimates. googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/0 ...

** blogoscoped.com/archive/2006-0 ...

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> Ludwik, have you checked where most of the
> products you use in everyday life are made?

In my previous post I talked about collaboration that includes "support [for a government] in its fight against democratic changes". Nobody blames Poles who had jobs and bought products under communistic regime (thought I agree that Chinese's product case is more complicated). But there is a huge difference between just making business with someone and actively becoming part of secret police agenda and taking the role of a censor.

I agree with you that Google behave better than most of its close competitors (thought there are huge portals which haven't done any agreement with China. And guess what? There are accessible from there in almost all cases. As Philipp said you don't have to totally avoid the country to behave morally ok). I just think that "better" is not good enough for the company that keeps almost all my private data and always promised "don't be evil" style (not "be less evil"! "Don't be evil". Period.).

Marcin Sochacki (Wanted) [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

Philipp,
> Marcin, let's not forget there was a 90%* well-working, non-censored
> Google for China *before* Google.cn.

Exactly, it's also important that Chinese can still use google.com, like they used before, although not without problems. More on this below. Google.cn is an *added* service, they don't take anything away from Chinese, no freedoms are removed. That's why it's just a pure convenience of a local service according to local laws, but the citizens still have a choice.

90% is the average figure, but a little known fact is that the Great FireWall of China will block you quite quickly if you start looking for "questionable" terms on foreign websites, e.g. Google. People are losing Internet access and services are blocked completely when the intensity of blacklisted terms increases. See e.g. wired.com/politics/onlineright ...
also a nice study here:
opennetinitiative.net/studies/ ...

Having an alternative version of Google, as a service which is not affected by GFW, is in this case helpful – you can at least search for regular queries.

Ludwik:
> thought there are huge portals which haven't done any agreement with
> China. And guess what? There are accessible from there in almost all
> cases.

Example? Because from what I can see any large external site where users can create or find banned content will eventually get blocked by GFW, e.g. Wikipedia. OTOH, internal sites must sign the contract with the govt and they are obliged to do the censorship themselves.

> As Philipp said you don't have to totally avoid the country to
> behave morally ok

What's your suggestion then? I'm sure if there was a better solution, Google would have chosen that, but is there?

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> What's your suggestion then?

I'm just saying (or rather repeating after Philipp) that it's not that you collaborate or your service isn't available at all. It's more complicated.

> Google.cn is an *added* service
Yes, but not a two things:
1. It's easier now for a Chinese government to block google.com than before.
2. Google is pushing censored version. When someone from chine types "www.google.com" he is automatically redirected to censored www.google.cn. He can click special link in the footer to go back, but most people don't even notice and if they do they don't know about the link. I now that this is consistent with how Google works in other countries, but when you become involved in censoring you start to hit those kind of an issues.

BTW, welcome on Google Blogoscoped forum. I hope you will stay here and extend our Polish representation ;) So far there are three of us – me, Tadeusz and Piotr.
I also think that unofficial forum's rules stays that you, as an Google employee, deserves little little "G" image before your name (right there when I have little red panda's [firefox's] face). But that's a Philipp's decision.
I hope you don't mind me opening another thread about your blog here. I think it's pretty interesting from a Google-fan point of view...

Marcin Sochacki (Wanted) [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

Thanks for the welcome, Ludwik.

> I also think that unofficial forum's rules stays that you,
> as an Google employee

In fact, as of three months, I am a former employee (resigned for personal reasons, not related to blogging or anything :-))

/pd [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

"Don't be evil"." ? ....but from which side of the coin ?? The .cn side or the .gov side ??

No, I am not a fan of censorship. However, from a government standpoint I can throw the same statement back to google and say "don't be evil" – now use this "blackhole", if you want to operate within china or for that matter of {india,brazil, france , Oman etc etc}

Remember that Google at one time censorsed the Abu Ghraib images directly within the .com zone too!! In fact they pulled those images.. because of .gov pressure.. not humanitarian reasons..

Marcin Sochacki (Wanted) [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

/pd:
yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?c ...

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> In fact, as of three months, I am a former employee

Oh, that's bad, I found your Google(plex) related posts very interesting. For people who hadn't read them here are two examples. This is about googlers' gadgets: wanted.eu.org/en/computers/goo ... and here about a party in Irish Google offfice: wanted.eu.org/en/computers/goo ...
Marcin is still updating his blog and almost all posts are available in both English and Polish.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> Having an alternative version of Google, as a service
> which is not affected by GFW, is in this case helpful
> – you can at least search for regular queries.

I don't quite understand what you mean. Yahoo China is also cooperating with the Chinese government (they got their official assigned site number showing on the frontpage, just like Google.cn), and yet you'll be blocked for some time when you research certain terms. This can be implemented by ISP's independent of self-censorship of individual engines.

> Because from what I can see any large external site
> where users can create or find banned content will
> eventually get blocked by GFW, e.g. Wikipedia.

No, Google.com was only blocked 10% of the time, according to Google's figures. When the Chinese government tried to completely block it, they quickly undid their move thanks to a public outcry in China, as Sergey Brin told Playboy in 2004.

Also, as Ludwik mentioned, it is now easier for the Chinese gov't to block Google.com (because the public outcry is weakened), and I've heard reports along the lines of an increased blocking of Google.com indeed. And let's not forget that Google.com auto-redirects to Google.cn for Chinese users (though they include a switch back to Google.com at the homepage's footer, at least from what I can tell trying to reproduce this from Germany).

> I'm sure if there was a better solution, Google
> would have chosen that, but is there?

Your argument is that of simple trust: because Google did it, it must be right. I don't trust any company to always make the right moral decisions; we need to watch them and make up our own minds. After all, Google stayed *out* of China for many years. So what changed, morally?

I think no matter how we twist and turn the argument, and there are indeed many ways to look at it from a moral as well as a business perspective, there's one thing which seems to be pretty much undisputable: it's not "don't be evil", it's – positively expressed – "you can be a little evil for a greater good, by applying an 'evil scale'". And this is the most positive look on Google's move that I can imagine without resorting to propaganda or something, and it shows that Google decided to get rid of their old motto (a more negative interpretation is that they joined China like all other big search players, depriving the world of the last big uncompromised search player, strengthening the Chinese government's censorship efforts and cheating Chinese citizens – but this is disputable, and your perspective may vary). I'll make a bet that they'll be careful to avoid their "don't be evil" motto in future press releases and such (I could be wrong, though).

Marcin, didn't know you worked at Google, by the way. And I second Ludwik's welcome to the forum!

Marcin Sochacki (Wanted) [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> I don't quite understand what you mean.

I meant – it is much more likely that they pull the plug of google.com than google.cn (e.g. because of a higher than normal "bad" traffic on Tiananmen's anniversary). google.cn, in general, stays accessible for regular queries during the times google.com is blocked completely.

> No, Google.com was only blocked 10% of the time

You say "only", I say "as much as". 10% is a really high number. Imagine you are left without a search engine every 10th day. And it happens at random, so when you really need you may find out it's blocked. That indeed caused a real frustration for Chinese users of Google.com.

>After all, Google stayed *out* of China for many years.
> So what changed, morally?

Morally, I think nothing has changed. They must have been thinking about addressing the issue for a long time, and other companies had invested much earlier, giving them a big advantage. They hired Kai-Fu Lee to negotiate the best possible deal with the gov't (e.g. to allow the "results censored" notes) and decided it's time to give up some of the ideals. Morally it was and still is something that IMO no Google employee is particularily proud of, but from the business standpoint, they couldn't wait longer.

> we need to watch them and make up our own minds

Agreed, that's the role of good journalism (list arguments and let people decide). A bad journalism (not talking about you, of course), is when the author fails to do *any* research on the subject and just repeats the opinions, not using arguments.

> I'll make a bet that they'll be careful to avoid their "don't be evil"
> motto in future press releases and such

OK let's bet on that :-) I don't think Google got rid of the motto, they did revise pages regarding censorship and such, but the motto is still in use. Of course "evil" is a fuzzy term, which is why some people think the motto was compromised when they entered China, but I truly believe it's not. And Google is not paying me for propaganda here :)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

7 years ago #

> That indeed caused a real frustration for Chinese
> users of Google.com.

OK, but censored searches too cause a real frustration, at least for me (that's one reason I never use Google.de, but always Google.com – due to Google.de censorship; it's not fully comparable of course, because Google.de isn't down 10%!). But yes, 10% is a high number for a Google engineer who's trained to optimize microseconds all day long... I can certainly see this perspective. Though millions of missing pages, talking about this in terms of an engineering/ search quality problem, is a big deal too... what if N% of the results are now served speedily, but are inherently broken in terms of relevance? (Note: Google does not tell people, at least not me, how many pages they censor in China.)

Christopher Langdon [PersonRank 0]

7 years ago #

Nothing Google does surpises me. Google, yahoo and Microsft and yahoo won't allow me toa dvertise my website, www.chinaisevil.com, IN THE US, because it is critical of Communist China. Google ahs also blocked my site form its search results, IN THE US, for "China," despite numerous statements that they don't censor their search results. What whores!

   Chris Langdon, qiology[put at-character here]aol.com

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