Google Blogoscoped

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Re: Google’s Vint Cerf Interviewed

Google’s Vint Cerf last year told Swiss publication “Das Magazin” that “If a journalist needs an official statement by the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt promised he will be ready within an hour. No matter where in the world he happens to be.” So I sent off questions from you to Google for Eric Schmidt to answer. Today, over a month later, none of the questions have been answered.

I asked Vint Cerf about this, and he took upon himself to answer – or leave unanswered – some of your questions, disclaiming that ...

... rapid responses might only reasonably be expected for on-the-record corporate policy questions. Even then it may be expected that internal consultation and coordination might still take some time. Most of the questions ... though very interesting, are not about corporate policy and thus unlikely to provoke responses, regardless of time frame.

Of the 6 questions, Vint replied to 4 by pointing out that it’s not a policy question (“Google generally does not disclose future plans until it feels it is ready to do so.”). 1 question about why contacts with libraries for Google book scanning are not disclosed was answered with another question (“I am not sure what purpose would be served here? Is there an issue?”). But 1 question Vint did reply to:

Q: How do you communicate with the Chinese government about which sites to censor? Is there any automatism? Or do all censorship requests go through a human review?

Vint: My understanding is that this is not an automatic process and that the chinese government makes known what information is of concern to them.

(By contrast, in Germany Google has potential access to a censorship database, though Google declined to comment on this before, and I don’t know in how far they use this so-called “BPjM-Modul”. Though in China, I find it hard to imagine that the Chinese authorities would communicate a list of domains say over the phone or otherwise mere verbally... and if they do have it written down as list, I would imagine it’s possible this same domain list is re-used to communicate censorship requests to other search engines and websites as well, like Yahoo China, Baidu and so on. I asked Vint a couple of follow-up question on the topic of Google China self-censorship and will post if he replies.)


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