Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google and censorship

In today's news:

Google Inc. launched a search engine in China on Wednesday that censors material about human rights, Tibet and other topics sensitive to Beijing -- defending the move as a trade-off granting Chinese greater access to other information.

Within minutes of the launch of the new site bearing China's Web suffix ".cn," searches for the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement showed scores of sites omitted and users directed to articles condemning the group posted on Chinese government Web sites.

Searches for other sensitive subjects such as exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, Taiwan independence, and terms such as "democracy" and "human rights" yielded similar results.

In most such cases, only official Chinese government sites or those with a ".cn" suffix were included.

Google, which has as its motto "Don't Be Evil," says the new site aims to make its search engine more accessible in China, thereby expanding access to information.

Yet the move has already been criticized by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which also has chided Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s for submitting to China's censorship regime.

"When a search engine collaborates with the government like this, it makes it much easier for the Chinese government to control what is being said on the Internet," said Julien Pain, head of the group's Internet desk.
Curious, I typed in "dalai lama" this morning. With, there are three news results -- links to articles from the Hindustan Times, Jerusalem Post, and Washington Post. The first site listed is the official site of the Government of Tibet in Exile. Google returns 5,070,000 results for "dalai lama."

With, there are no news results. The first site listed is a page from the China Internet Information Center. A sample of the propaganda to be found therein:
Donning the cloak of "religious leader'', he travelled around to spread rumors to mislead international opinion. Out of their own need, some in the West hailed him as the deity and lauded him as "the peace envoy'' and "human rights fighter''. However, it is this ex-leader of Tibetan Buddhism who, discarding the tradition of his predecessors of loving the motherland to trample on religious doctrines, hoodwink the religious sentiments of Tibetan Buddhists, organize an illegal government-in-exile, trumpet "Tibetan independence'' to split the motherland, and undermine internal unity and rules of Tibetan Buddhism. Indeed, he has gone far to betray the motherland and the Tibetan people.
Clear enough? Unless I'm missing something crucial in Chinese characters, returns a mere 17,100 results for "dalai lama."

Interestingly, if one types "" into, a working link to the Government of Tibet in Exile results. And typing "" returns a working link to Tibet Online. Whether someone in China would find these links working, I don't know. Perhaps Google still needs to get the kinks out of its censorship algorithms to really keep these sites from Chinese computer users.

Shame on you, Google.

Link: Google agrees to censor results in China (from the Associated Press)

A related post: "Human rights" and other four-letter words

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