Google Blogoscoped

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bird Flu Results in

In February this year, Google’s director of research Peter Norvig said he was “surprised” how much gets through uncensored in

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 Now probably if you searched with Chinese characters rather than with the English characters, there would be more of a difference there. And certainly there is a difference. There are only 52 million results for bird flu in versus 94 million for But the first 10 are exactly the same.

Were the results the same? I don’t know. They’re not anymore, anyway: search for either bird flu, bird flu china, bird flu asia or just flu in, and you’ll be getting the censorship disclaimer at the bottom, with one or more pages missing from the top 10. Blacklisted pages include the BBC News articles titled “China has new bird flu outbreak” and “Bird flu ’could kill 150m people’” (there are over 50 million pages censored in for BBC alone, 463,000 of those containing the phrase “bird flu” – see a search for Not coincidentally, BBC this year started to offer self-censored news on a special China site).

Now I’m sure many Chinese will not search for bird flu in English, but I’m following Peter Norvig’s example here (searching for the Chinese characters for avian flu, I get censored results in the top 20). Peter went on to say:

And sure they 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.

How does Google actually fight for what they say is most important? Do they have arguments with the Chinese gov’t over specific blacklisted domains? (Google CEO Eric Schmidt in April said; “I think it’s arrogant for us to walk into a country where we are just beginning to operate and tell that country how to operate.”)


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