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Sunday, June 4, 2006

Tiananmen Square Remembrance

Today, June 4th, marks the 17th year of the Tiananmen Square protests and the massacre that followed it. Peter in the forum points to news of today’s protest in memory of 17 years ago. From AP:

An elderly woman tried to pull out a poster with apparently political material written on it, but police ripped it up and then took her away in a van.

What do you get when you search for tiananmen square in China today? You get self-censored search results from (I’m searching in English, but nevermind – the Chinese name is censored as well.). The differences in the top results of and are quite telling:

In China, Google will present you tourist sites and similar info and no criticism (at least from what I can see & understand). On the international Google, you’ll see images of tanks confronting a protester, and lots of criticism.

One of the search results on is interesting though; it’s an untitled link with no description snippet, and it’s pointing to a Google image search for tiananmen square tank. Apparently, so many people pointed to the censorship going on at Google, that Google’s algorithms picked up on it and rank this URL well now – but they’re not showing a title or description as their own robots.txt forbids it. However, if you click on the link you won’t be able to see a single image, but instead, get the usual “According to local laws and policies some search results are not showing” disclaimer. There are 40 images showing for this search in, on the other hand.

Checking Google News in China is also no great help when you want objective coverage; Google agreed to not include certain gov’t-critical sources (that official Google blog post from 2004 includes the now unfortunately ironic statement, “For Internet users in China, Google remains the only major search engine that does not censor any web pages”).

Going to competitors, of course, yields no better results either; search for tiananmen square on Yahoo China, and you’ll get 3 results, the top one titled “beijing seeks public opinions on improving cityscape.” Search for tiananmen square protests, and you’ll get nothing at all, compared to 271,000 pages on


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