Friday, January 27, 2006

Censorship Justifications from Brin, Do No Evil hypocrisy

Gary Price has been doing a good job of covering Google's China censorship debacle, and has posted a good recap of everything that's been going down on the Search Engine Watch blog post entitled, 'Brin Speaks On China & Looking At What's Filtered'. There is a rundown of what is being censored and a few other tidbits of note, like that Congress will ask Google to attend a hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Human Rights, after being bashed by the committee's chairman Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey.

In a CNN interview given by David Kirkpatrick, Sergey Brin commented on Google's justification for the censorship, saying that:

We ultimately made a difficult decision, but we felt that by participating there, and making our services more available, even if not to the 100 percent that we ideally would like, that it will be better for Chinese Web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it.


Brin goes onto say that they do the same thing in the US and Germany. But I must mention that the things that they are by law required to censor in these countries are not topics that a communist government wants censored to oppress its people from thinking in a way that is subversive to their way of governing. The U.S. requires the blocking of child porn. GREAT. The Germans block Nazi materials, NO PROBLEM. But blocking human rights and materials on democracy, NOT OK! There is a huge difference in what they are blocking, and to compare them like they're equitable is a bunch of baloney.

Kirkpatrick then ran into Human Rights Watch's boss, Ken Roth, who made this comment:

"I'm sure Google justifies this by saying it's just a couple of search words that people can't get to, but it's very difficult for Google to do what they just did and avoid the slippery slope. The next thing they'll do is ask them to tell them who is searching for 'Taiwan' or 'independence' or 'human rights.' And then it's going to find itself in the position of turning over the names of dissidents or simply of inquisitive individuals, for imprisonment.

The key in my view is that every company faces the same dilemma -- how do you maintain your principles while benefiting from the enormous Chinese market. And the answer is only going to come through safety in numbers. And it's going to require all of the search engines to get together and say "None of us will do this." And China needs search engines. If it can pick them off one at a time, it wins. If it faces all of the search engines at once banding together, the search engines win.


I think Google has totally missed the mark here.

In the US, the Department of Justice subpoenas them to give over nonspecific things that will aid an investigation and they refuse. Microsoft has announced exactly what kind of queries they are asking for, and guess what? They do not identify any IP addresses or leak private information. So why act all high and mighty like they're more ethical than the other companies who turned over what the government was asking for, but then agree to censor subjects for a communist government to exert control over its citizens?

They're selling themselves in the wrong way. They'd rather go against the US government and sleep in the pocket of China's.

Do No Evil my ass.

It's very funny to note that Google has removed their help article about them not censoring search results. It once read:

Google does not censor results for any search term. The order and content of our results are completely automated; we do not manipulate our search results by hand. We believe strongly in allowing the democracy of the web to determine the inclusion and ranking of sites in our search results.


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2 Comments:

At 6:22 AM, Blogger Veky said...

You say:
The U.S. requires the blocking of child porn. GREAT. The Germans block Nazi materials, NO PROBLEM. But blocking human rights and materials on democracy, NOT OK! There is a huge difference in what they are blocking

So? What exactly is the difference? Is it the same difference that justifies American attacks on Iraq, but not Iraq's attacks on other nations?

In a way, yes. All of governmental censorships are with the same intention, and you said it very well:

to oppress its people from thinking in a way that is subversive to their way of governing.

It's just sad that you do not see that "their way of governing" can be any of today's society orders. Not just communism. Democracy does the same.

Second:
Microsoft has announced exactly what kind of queries they are asking for, and guess what? They do not identify any IP addresses or leak private information.

You are very naive here, I must say. Please read this, or at least just the last paragraph of this article if you don't have time. I hope you'll see better then.

You're doing a very good critique of Google overall. But here I think you're blaming them for the wrong thing.

 
At 12:46 PM, Blogger faeriebell said...

If you don't see the harm in blocking searches for human rights, tiananmen, taiwan independence, tibet, and a miriad of other searches, you are missing the point here.

Just look at Google's regular image results for Tiananmen, and then look at what image results are shown to the Chinese people.

There is not one cell in my body that tells me that type of censorship is the same thing as blocking searches for child porn.

I have read extensively on the topic of the DOJ case, and am not naive here, thanks a bunch. I understand what the government asked for, and don't think the next step that the Outer Court blog speculates about would be so easy for the DOJ to achieve. There is no precedence set for that type of privacy leak, and MSN and Yahoo understand the importace keeping it that way. Again I say Google is wrong to deny the US government their request and then go ahead and censor China's results for the government there.

 

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